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Jacob Kornbluth, Josh Kornbluth
Josh Kornbluth, Warren Keith, Helen Shumaker, Amy Resnick, Brian Thornstenson
Jacob Kornbluth, Josh Kornbluth

Work Has Never Been So Funny!
Rated R for language and some sexuality.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French; Closed-captioned

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 2/26/2002

• Audio Commentary from Josh and Jacob Kornbluth
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• Theatrical Trailers
• Filmographies
• Directors’ Note


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Haiku Tunnel (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

While I attempt to keep an open mind when I check out new films - really! - I must admit I’m starting to dread anything apparently espoused by the Sundance Festival. I previously saw 2000’s The Tao of Steve and thought it was a watchable and sporadically entertaining flick but nothing special. At Sundance, Donal Logue got a special award for his lead performance, apparently because he gained a lot of weight.

My memories of Tao were much more negative than those I wrote in my review; I remembered hating it. I think I confused my feelings about the obnoxious and grating audio commentary with my thoughts about the film itself. In any case, I wasn’t exactly wild about Tao.

However, that flick looks like a masterpiece compared to 2001’s Haiku Tunnel, another flick screened at Sundance. Maybe it’s not the Sundance thing that’s the problem; perhaps I just shouldn’t see indie films in which fat guys land very attractive babes. At least Logue was a decent-looking guy; he just packed on the lard for the role. On the other hand, Tunnel’s Josh Kornbluth may well be the ugliest man on the planet. Fat, bald and generally goofy, he presents an intensely unappealing presence at all times.

Since Tunnel is largely his baby - it’s based on a monologue he wrote, and he co-wrote and co-directed the film with his younger brother Jacob - the results aren’t pretty. But don’t think I disliked Tunnel simply due to Josh’s ugliness; his obnoxiousness goes well beyond the physical as he creates an amazingly unlikable and annoying character who makes the film a generally miserable experience.

Imagine Woody Allen with no talent and you have Josh Kornbluth. Haiku Tunnel follows his character - wackily, he’s also named Josh Kornbluth - who works as a temporary secretary. He gets an assignment at a law firm called Schuyler and Mitchell - wackily, they refer to it as S&M - and does so well on his first day that they offer him a permanent position. Against his better judgment, Josh agrees to go “perm”; when head secretary Marlina (Helen Schumaker) tells him the company will cover his psychotherapy, he finds the prospect too good to refuse.

However, Josh is really a temp kind of guy, with a fear of commitment, so this is a big leap for him. What slight plot we find in Haiku revolves around his avoidance of some very important letters given to him by his boss, Bob Shelby (Warren Keith). Bob taped 17 of them for transcription, and Josh goes out of his way to keep from writing and mailing them. The letters become a big deal and cause all sorts of wacky shenanigans, which include a hot tryst with another company lawyer named Julie Faustino (Sarah Overman).

”Wacky” really is the word of the day for Haiku, as the movie wants badly to be wild and outrageous. Instead, it simply becomes painful and annoying. Again, much of this occurs because of Kornbluth’s exceedingly obnoxious performance. While my comments earlier may have mainly reflected his looks, it’s not his unattractiveness alone that makes Kornbluth unpleasant to watch. Granted, that doesn’t help, but the bigger issue relates to his incessant emoting and idiocy on screen. He seems to feel he’s much funnier and more clever than he actually is. Kornbluth tosses out tons of “insightful” observations and gags, but virtually none of them work. Instead, they totally fall flat as they seem forced and self-consciously askew. Kornbluth wants badly to be a tubby Woody Allen, but all he succeeds in is his heaviness; while I can’t count myself as a consistent Allen fan, his work looks like absolute genius compared to this nonsense.

The other cast members fare better than Kornbluth, but that doesn’t say much. None of them seem poor, but none of them do terribly well with the material. They appear to buy into the hammily pseudo-clever nature of the piece and their performances feel somewhat smarmy and self-congratulatory. Most of the actors come across as excessively broad and amateurish, and even a pro like Harry Shearer can’t bring any spark to this junk.

Ultimately, Haiku Tunnel lives and dies with Kornbluth, though, and that’s why the flick flops so badly. With his bulging eyes, mix of facial tics and permanently apoplectic expression, he creates an obnoxious and unlikable presence who consistently annoyed me; if he was one-fourth as funny as he seems to think he is, this film would be a classic. The movie itself offers a silly, broad and amateurish office satire that wants badly to be discerning and insightful but instead appears crudely drawn and inane.

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

Haiku Tunnel appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie remained watchable but it showed a surprisingly high number of problems for such a recent film.

Some of these seemed due to its low-budget origins, but many appeared unrelated. Sharpness looked decent but unspectacular. The movie never came across as very soft or unfocused, but it also didn’t seem terribly crisp or well defined. The image appeared acceptably distinct but lacked the definition that I would expect. Jagged edges and moiré effects presented no concerns, and I also noticed no signs of edge enhancement.

Print flaws were surprisingly prevalent for a recent film. Light grain appeared during much of the film, and I also detected a myriad of additional minor flaws. The picture showed grit, speckles, streaks, nicks and spots. Never did these seem frightfully heavy, but they definitely appeared excessive for a modern flick.

Colors looked acceptable for the most part, and at times they came across as fairly warm and vibrant. However, they also appeared somewhat thick and oversaturated at times. The hues seemed inconsistent, so while most of the film appeared fine in that regard, other scenes weren’t as successful. Blacks seemed somewhat murky and inky much of the time, though shadow detail looked reasonably appropriate and distinct. None of these problems made Haiku Tunnel difficult to watch, but I still thought this was a below-average presentation for a film from 2001.

Much more pleasing was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Haiku Tunnel. Not surprisingly, the soundfield remained fairly heavily oriented toward the front channels. Within the forward spectrum, I heard strong stereo separation for music, which showed good imaging and presence. Effects stayed in the realm of general ambience for the most part, but they showed nice spread and involvement. The surrounds kicked in with little more than reinforcement of the music and effects, but the soundfield seemed fine for this sort of dialogue-heavy film.

Audio quality appeared consistently terrific. Dialogue seemed natural and distinct; I heard no edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects were a modest element, but they sounded clean and accurate, with good range. Music fared best of all, as the score came across as clean and distinct. The music was vibrant and bright, and bass response appeared nicely deep and rich. The soundtrack of Haiku Tunnel lost a few points due to its lack of ambition, but it still earned a “B+” due to the strong reproduction of the audio.

This DVD of Haiku Tunnel provides a smattering of supplements. First up we find an audio commentary from co-director/co-writer/actor Josh Kornbluth and his co-director/co-writer brother Jacob. Both were recorded together for this running, screen-specific piece. Overall, I thought this was a pretty mediocre track, but considering my extreme animosity toward the film itself, I suppose that such positive sentiments are a minor miracle.

On the positive side, the Kornbluth boys provide a chatty and reasonably engaging presence. The commentary suffers from exceedingly few empty spaces as the boys yak almost continuously. They provide a decent amount of good information and come across as moderately witty and likeable; to be sure, Josh seems much less annoying here than during the movie.

However, at times the commentary suffers badly from Farrelly Syndrome. Like that more successful pair of filmmaking brothers, the Kornbluths often do little more than tell us who the onscreen participants are. They also waste a lot of time with excessively positive statements, as we learn how great everyone was. To be fair, I probably shouldn’t say “they” do this, as it’s mainly Josh who spreads the love. Jacob seems better oriented toward the appropriate task at hand, and he offers the majority of the useful information while Josh schmoozes. In the end, I thought this was a decent little track and I certainly enjoyed it more than the film itself, but it did little to distinguish itself from the pack.

Next we find some unused footage in two different sections. Deleted Scenes offers six clips, each of which runs between 14 seconds and 93 seconds for a total of five minutes and three seconds of material. It’s all similar to the junk seen in the film itself; none of that work made me laugh, and nothing here inspired any renewed amusement.

The Outtakes provides an additional six snippets. Each lasts between 26 seconds and 53 seconds for a total of four minutes, 34 seconds of footage. Mostly these offer repeated takes of shots, and they may be interesting to fans; I didn’t care for them. One complaint: Columbia-Tristar rarely bothers to provide a “Play All” option for their DVDs, and it’s absent here as well. It’s a minor nuisance to have to constantly restart short clips, but it’s an annoyance nonetheless, and one that could be easily avoided.

After this, we discover some basic extras. Filmographies includes listings for both Kornbluth brothers and actor Warren Keith, while Theatrical Trailers provides promos for Tunnel, The Tao of Steve and Jackpot. Lastly, the DVD’s insert card offers a short text Directors’ Statement.

Unfortunately, the latter doesn’t apologize for the flick, which is the only statement that we need. Haiku Tunnel stands as a truly witless piece of work. It wants badly to be clever and fresh, but instead it simply comes across as moronic, self-indulgent, and annoying. I found it to offer a genuinely unpleasant experience. Picture quality seemed surprisingly weak, but the audio appeared very good, and the DVD included a mix of decent extras. Do yourself a favor and avoid this miserably unfunny flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2 Stars Number of Votes: 5
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