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Director: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Minnie Driver, Ben Affleck, Stellan Skarsgard
Screenplay: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck

Tagline: Wildly charismatic. Impossibly brilliant. Totally rebellious.
Box Office: Budget $10 million. Opening weekend $10.261 million on 1787 screens. Domestic gross $138.339 million.
MPAA: Rated R for strong language, including some sex-related dialogue.

Academy Awards: Won for Best Supporting Actor-Robin Williams; Best Screenplay.
Nominated for Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actor-Matt Damon; Best Supporting Actress-Minnie Driver; Best Film Editing; Best Song-Elliott Smith "Miss Misery"; Best Score-Danny Elfman

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 126 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 12/8/1998

• Audio Commentary with Director Gus Van Sant and Writers/Actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck
• 11 Deleted Scenes
• Production Featurette
• Trailer and TV Spots
• Academy Award Montage
• Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• "Miss Misery" Music Video

Score Soundtrack
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Good Will Hunting (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

During the summer of 1998, my then-girlfriend and I saw a preview for What Dreams May Come. She uttered her disdain for the film by remarking, "Not another movie with Robin Williams in his 'inspirational' mode!"

Now, I didn't think that Dreams looked too hot, but I leapt to Williams' defense by stating that he really hadn't made that many films of that ilk. We also had Dead Poets Society, Awakenings and Good Will Hunting, but I didn't think that four films over 20 years indicated a trend. (She argued that Mrs. Doubtfire fell into that category, but I disagreed; it was a straight comedy with a saccharine message but not “inspirational”.)

A couple months later, we saw the trailer for Patch Adams. You know how sometimes on The Flintstones, Wilma will put Fred in his place and he'll physically shrink down to about six inches tall to show how small he feels? That was me. I sank so far in my seat when we saw that preview that I almost slipped under the cushion. Maybe this was a trend after all.

Who'd believe that the guy who's career ignited as wacky Mork from Ork would turn into the one-time king of melodramatic inspirational fare? I have no objection to comedic actors growing and attempting more serious fare, but Williams' career took a truly revolting development. I avoided seeing Good Will Hunting and Dreams on the big screen. However, a friend suckered me into attending Patch Adams, and I thoroughly regretted that painful experience.

On a 1999 visit to my parents' house, I noticed that my Dad's burgeoning DVD collection contained the then-recent release of Hunting. Initially, I resisted borrowing it, but since my father and I usually disagree about movies, and since I enjoy arguing with him about movies, I thought I'd give it a shot.

Much to my dismay, I found that I actually thought Hunting was a pretty entertaining little movie. (Damn, I hate it when my Dad's right!) While the film definitely features too many "ooh! that's amazing!" scenes for my taste - mainly shots of boy genius Will (Matt Damon) impressing us with his raw brainpower - I thought that it held back from really overwhelming us with those kinds of bits, unlike a much less subtle piece of dreck like Patch Adams, which wore its emotions on its hairy, yellow butt.

One other area in which Hunting distinctly improved upon Patch Adams came from Williams' much more subdued and believable performance. When he gets into inspirational mode, Williams tends to come across as perhaps the most sanctimonious and self-righteous person who ever walked the Earth; he seems so damned smug and in love with himself that I barely retain my lunch. Thankfully, those melodramatic tendencies stay fairly well within check during Hunting; I don't know if I would have given him any awards for his performance, but I thought Williams did some of his best work in a long time.

The rest of the cast performed capably as well. Then-rising stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck worked together very nicely and naturally. Affleck especially came across well as an amusing lunkhead; while Damon’s Will occasionally didn't seem quite as all-fired brilliant as he was supposed to be, Affleck really appeared to inhabit the role of working-class Chuckie.

All in all, it's a much more understated film than I expected. Even though I knew Patch Adams would be a simpering, sanctimonious sobfest, it still overwhelmed me with how low it sank. Hunting, on the other hand, always kept its feelings in check and it never used cheap emotional bombastics to create artificially involving drama.

Interestingly, it's a very talky movie, but I didn't really notice that until it was over. During the commentary track, director Gus Van Sant noted that most of the film was propelled by dialogue, not by action; people talked about their feelings and thoughts rather than actually doing much of anything. This was an accurate synopsis, and while it sounds deadly dull, it's really quite interesting.

In fact, probably the worst thing about Hunting is the Hollywood clout it gave to Van Sant. Without the phenomenal success of this movie, it's unlikely he would have gotten studio clearance to attempt the piece of career suicide known as his ill-fated remake of Psycho.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio C+ / Bonus B+

Good Will Hunting appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this DVD. The image has NOT been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That was just one of the many problems on display here.

Sharpness was mediocre at best. Though close-ups displayed decent clarity, wider shots became mushier, a factor exacerbated by some prominent edge haloes. Occasional instances of jaggies and shimmering occurred, and digital artifacts gave the movie a messy appearance. On top of that, I saw a mix of specks, marks and blemishes; these weren’t intense, but they created consistent distractions.

Colors followed the parade of concerns. The hues tended to look runny and heavy; they weren’t terrible, but they seemed too dense. Blacks were fine, at least, and shadows seemed acceptable, though some shots tended to be a bit thick. This was an old transfer that hasn’t held up well over the years.

I got a more consistent impression from the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, but that didn’t mean I heard anything especially impressive. However, a character piece like Hunting wouldn’t benefit from a slam-bang soundscape, so the limited scope of the mix worked fine. The movie demonstrated a nice sense of environment without any scenes that stood out in a notable way. Bars, a ball game and a fight were probably the most involving settings, but they weren’t especially exciting. These offered good atmosphere – with an emphasis on the forward channels – and made for a low-key but acceptable presentation.

Audio quality was fine. Speech appeared distinctive and concise, without brittle tones or other issues. Music was lush and full, while effects demonstrated nice accuracy and clarity. Again, nothing here seemed particularly memorable, but the package suited the movie.

Among the extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Gus Van Sant and writers/actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific look at the film’s roots, development and script, set design, locations and visuals, cast and crew, and other aspects of the production.

Normally directors dominate commentaries like this, but in this case, that doesn’t hold to be true. While Van Sant gives us a reasonable amount of info, the loquacious Damon and Affleck do most of the chatting – or at least more of the chatting, as I don’t want to leave the impression Van Sant sits silently.

Whoever speaks, they make this a pretty solid chat. At times, we get a bit more happy talk than I’d like, but the participants nonetheless manage to deliver a wealth of useful information. They do this with good humor and create an engaging, enjoyable piece.

Footnote: 14 years after the release of Hunting, it’s fascinating to hear the perspectives of the then-young Affleck and Damon, especially when viewed through the prism of how their careers went.

11 Deleted Scenes run a total of 20 minutes, 38 seconds. Most of these offer small character bits and/or exposition. Lambeau gets the most benefit from these, as they flesh out his part a little better, and we get more Chuckie as well. We also find some extended scenes, such as the one in which Chuckie meets with job recruiters. Some of these are interesting, some are fun, but none are particularly valuable or significant. One in which Chuckie chats with Skylar comes close to real relevance but doesn’t quite get there; while it offers some decent notes, it would’ve slowed down the final cut of the film.

We can watch these with commentary from Van Sant, Affleck and Damon. Whereas Damon and Affleck did most of the talking during the feature track, Van Sant comes to the fore here. While the writers/actors get in plenty of notes, Van Sant does the heavy lifting since he has to let us know why he cut the sequences. We also find out background for the pieces. The notes add valuable information about the deleted scenes.

Under Production Featurette, we get a six-minute, 39-second reel. It includes notes from Van Sant, Affleck, Damon, producer Lawrence Bender, and actors Minnie Driver and Robin Williams. They tell us about the story and characters plus a few production basics. Very few, that is, as this promotional piece is a long ad and nothing more; you can safely skip it.

A Music Video appears next. This comes for “Miss Misery” from Elliott Smith and uses a format that intercuts movie clips with unique footage of the singer. It feels like it wants to create a little story, especially when we see a cop follow Smith down a street. That theme never pays off, so this ends up as a dull video.

For something unusual, we view an Academy Award Best Picture Montage. This 44-second clip simply shows the reel that ran at the Oscars to represent the film to the broadcast audience. It’s not especially interesting, but it’s kind of fun as an archival piece.

Behind the Scenes lasts three minutes, 36 seconds and takes us to the set – or sets, as it were, as we visit a number of locations. These let us glimpse the shoot in various stages. It’s brief and perfunctory but reasonably good to see.

Some ads finish the set. We get a trailer and four TV spots.

A consistently involving character piece, Good Will Hunting hits the occasional snag, but it’s usually pretty solid. It boasts a consistently high level of acting and writing that makes it an enjoyable piece. The DVD offers decent audio and a nice array of supplements, but the non-16X9-enhanced image makes this disc a relic of a different age.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.7088 Stars Number of Votes: 79
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