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Ronald Neame
Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson, Ned Beatty
Writing Credits:
Brian Garfield

Grounded with a desk job by incompetent superiors, a clever CIA agent retires and writes a tell all memoir that will embarrass his bosses, prompting him to go on the run and elude them.
Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English PCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 8/15/2017

Bonus: • Alternate TV Soundtrack
• Interview with Director Ronald Neame and Screenwriter Brian Garfield
Dick Cavett Show Excerpt
• Trailer and Teaser
• Booklet


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Hopscotch: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1980)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 10, 2017)

For a quirky tale of spies and intrigue, we go to 1980ís Hopscotch. After many years on the job, CIA agent Miles Kendig (Walter Matthau) finds himself sent to a pointless desk job due to order of his buffoonish boss (Ned Beatty).

Unhappy with this situation, Miles decides to retire, and he comes up with a plan to ensure the CIA wonít force him to return. If pressured, Miles promises heíll publish writing that reveals the agencyís secrets. The CIA calls his bluff and this sends Miles on the run to stay one step ahead and achieve his goals.

I canít help but feel that Hopscotch reminds me of 1979ís The In-Laws. Both feature older actors as CIA agents and both play their material for laughs.

I also didnít see either movie during release and canít explain why. I was an adolescent in 1979/1980, but I saw plenty of more ďadultĒ movies, and I wouldíve thought these would appeal to me.

At least I remember the existence of In-Laws, while I canít say the same for Hopscotch. I suppose I was aware of it back in 1980, but if so, the film left my brain years ago, so I donít recall anything about it.

Now that Iíve seen Hopscotch, I can say I donít think I missed much. What promises to offer a fun romp instead seems slow and sluggish.

Director Ronald Neame showed a flair for comedy with 1958ís Horseís Mouth, but by the 1970s, he found himself as the filmmaker behind action-disaster fare such as 1972ís Poseidon Adventure and 1979ís Meteor

I wonder if Neameís work on those flicks damaged his talent for comedy, as he doesnít display the loose touch necessary to allow Hopscotch to fly. The movie occasionally toys with the light and lively feel it needs, but most of the time it feels strangely flat.

While I donít think Hopscotch requires the zaniness of In-Laws, it could use more pep than we get. The movie occasionally shows signs of life, but too much of it plods and feels oddly sluggish.

Though eminently talented, Matthau feels miscast as the lead. He goes for his usual vibe as a rumpled schlub, an attitude that makes it tough to buy him as a super-spy. Matthau simply never convinces us that he possesses the skills to lead the cat and mouse game the character enacts.

Thereís a good movie at the core of Hopscotch, but this version doesnít deliver the goods. A fun premise and a good cast canít manage to turn this into the lively romp it aspires to be.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus C

Hopscotch appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I trust Criterion enough that I believe the transfer accurately represented the source, but this turned into such a bland image that this became a leap of faith.

The main issue came from the ample amounts of grain seen during the movie. Even for a product from 1980, grain seemed heavy, and this became an unusual distraction.

The rest of the picture worked better but still not great. Sharpness usually appeared fairly concise, with only an occasional soft shots, mainly during interiors. While never razor-sharp, the image came across with reasonable delineation.

I saw no shimmering or jaggies, and the image lacked edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to materialize.

Colors went with a semi-drab green orientation much of the time. A few brighter hues appeared on occasion and they added some life, though the graininess meant the tones never popped.

Blacks were fairly dark and deep, while shadows showed reasonable clarity. This might be the best the movie will look, but it still seemed lackluster.

I also found the filmís PCM monaural soundtrack to seem mediocre and typical of its era. Speech showed a little edginess at times and the lines seemed somewhat tinny, but dialogue appeared intelligible.

Music played a minor role and seemed adequate when it did appear. Effects also didnít have much to do, as they stayed in the background most of the time. A few louder scenes occurred Ė like one that involved a shootout Ė and these brought us passable clarity. This turned into a pretty mediocre mix.

Only a handful of extras appear here, and we open with a 2002 interview with director Ronald Neame and screenwriter Brian Garfield. This goes for 22 minutes and mixes comments recorded separately Ė Neame and Garfield donít actually chat together.

The piece looks at the source novel and its adaptation, how Neame came to the project, cast and performances, sets and locations, story and characters, and various production memories. We get a nice overview of the subject matter here.

From April 1980, we find a 21-minute, 55-second Dick Cavett Show excerpt. In this, Cavett chats with actor Walter Matthau about his life and career. The segment tends to be a little too cute for its own good, so we donít get a lot of useful material.

A second audio option offers the filmís TV soundtrack. This replaces the ďRĒ-rated movieís profanity with more ďfamily-friendlyĒ dialogue. Itís nothing more than a curiosity, but itís kind of fun.

In addition to both a teaser and a trailer for Hopscotch, the package winds up with a booklet. It provides the usual photos and credits along with an essay from critic Glenn Kenny. It concludes matters well.

Though it comes with a fun premise, Hopscotch fails to live up to its potential. It lacks the needed bounce and feels flat and slow. The Blu-ray brings us acceptable picture and audio as well as a handful of supplements. Hopscotch winds up as a disappointment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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