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Richard Benjamin
Peter O'Toole, Mark Linn-Baker, Jessica Harper, Joseph Bologna, Bill Macy
Dennis Palumbo, Norman Steinberg

Rated PG.

Academy Awards:
Nominated for Best Actor-Peter O'Toole.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Digital Mono
French Digital Mono
English, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 7/9/2002

• Audio commentary With Director Richard Benjamin
• Awards
• Theatrical Trailers
• Cast and Crew


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My Favorite Year (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Peter O’Toole experienced a minor resurgence in the early Eighties. After the noted disaster that was Caligula, O’Toole rebounded with 1980’s The Stunt Man. He then made My Favorite Year in 1982, and that movie went on to be a moderate hit. After that, he acted in 1984’s Supergirl - oops! So much for the comeback! O’Toole would appear in 1986’s reasonably funny Club Paradise, though, and he also showed up in 1987’s Oscar-winning , but otherwise, he’s continued to work in fairly low-profile flicks.

I always thought it was a shame that O’Toole faded from the public eye so significantly. He often presented a lively and powerful screen presence of the sort we simply don’t see too often these days; there’s a loose roguishness about him that modern actors seem to lack.

Frankly, I knew little about O’Toole when My Favorite Year opened in 1982, so his presence had little impact on my desire to see the film. I know I wanted to check it out but never did, for reasons that escape me.

Better late than never, and with the film’s DVD release, I finally got another chance. Year takes place in 1954 and deals with a hit TV program called King Kaiser’s Comedy Cavalcade. Benji Stone (Mark Linn-Baker) serves as a junior writer on the show, and he appears excited when faded matinee idol Alan Swann (O’Toole) will make a guest appearance on the series. However, when Swann arrives at the studio drunk, Kaiser (Joseph Bologna) wants to dump him. Only Stone’s pleas of pity change Kaiser’s mind, but one caveat remains: Stone must make sure that Swann shows up for all the necessary work.

Thus begins Stone’s escapades with the loose cannon film swashbuckler. As Stone attempts to shepherd the actor, the two go through a variety of mini-adventures, and Swann’s inspiration seems to help Benji in other ways; for example, he finally gets somewhere with his long-unrequited love K.C. (Jessica Harper). Swann learns something from the interactions as well, and he finally starts to sober up - figuratively and literally - and deal with real life.

As a subplot, Kaiser has to deal with an angry mob leader named Boss Rojeck (Cameron Mitchell). The program runs an ongoing parody called “Boss Hijack”, and this doesn’t sit well with Rojeck, who threatens Kaiser with bodily harm. However, Kaiser doesn’t back down, and this leads to a confrontation during the movie’s climax.

Although My Favorite Year seems like a good movie as a whole, O’Toole provides its strongest elements. He basically plays Errol Flynn as channeled through himself, and he makes the role work swimmingly well. He handles the many bits of physical comedy with aplomb and seems loose and lively in all ways. He can be suave and debonair as necessary, but he also adds heart to this solid performance.

Most of the supporting cast seems positive as well, though I feel lukewarm toward Linn-Baker. Perhaps it’s the fact that the lines around his mouth make him look like a ventriloquist’s dummy, but the actor often annoys me. However, he maintains a good rapport with O’Toole, so I think he does fine in the role.

Most of the cast maintains a sense of slight cartoonishness that works for the film. They play the parts slightly larger than life, but Year maintains a connection with reality; it never degenerates into pure silliness. The comedy keeps the plot moving, but the human connections make it memorable.

The film also benefits from its warm feeling toward its era. The flick portrays a New York of modest fantasy; it never seems like Oz, but it’s clear that the movie gives it an idealized air. That works for it, since the piece never asserts that it wants to paint a realistic picture of the era. Year exists as nostalgic figment, and it works well in that regard.

Overall, My Favorite Year offers a pleasant and charming experience. The movie presents a light and amusing piece that benefits from an excellent cast. In particular, Peter O’Toole makes the movie more compelling, as he adds a layer of depth to this lively and winning flick.

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

My Favorite Year 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. Overall, the picture seemed serviceable but moderately problematic.

Sharpness became a definite concern at times. Much of the movie appeared reasonably distinct and accurate, but the image suffered from quite a few soft spots. The film looked somewhat fuzzy on more than a few occasions. I saw no jagged edges or moiré effects, however, and I also noticed no instances of edge enhancement.

Print flaws seemed moderate for a film of this era. At the start, the film appeared fairly clean; I saw a little grit and some specks, but nothing terrible arose. While the image never became severely dirty, defects cropped up more frequently as the movie progressed. I saw more specks and grit and also witnessed examples of light grain plus the occasional mark and a hair or two.

Throughout My Favorite Year, the colors appeared somewhat pale and faded. At times the hues seemed reasonably rich and strong, but the film simply looked “blown-out” much of the time. The hues took on a lightness that appeared inappropriate. Black levels were fairly deep and dense, however, and shadow detail also looked acceptably thick most of the time; neither domain exhibited any real flaws, but neither came across terribly well, either.

Ultimately, I found My Favorite Year to provide a decent image for the most part, but the softness and the faded colors became a distraction at times. However, I must acknowledge the possibility that some of those issues occurred intentionally. Given the nostalgic tone that accompanied the film, it seemed possible that the filmmakers wanted to give it a light and hazy look. I never saw the movie prior to the DVD release, so I can’t compare this impression to past editions, but I wanted to raise the possibility.

I found the monaural soundtrack of My Favorite Year to also seem fairly lackluster. This offered the very definition of a mediocre mono mix. Dialogue remained intelligible and distinct throughout the movie, but the lines always seemed somewhat flat and dry. Effects played a fairly minor role in the film, and they also came across with adequate clarity but little life or spark. Music sounded fairly thin and restricted, as the mix displayed little dynamic range. Considering the age of the material, I felt the audio seemed serviceable and satisfactory enough to warrant a “C”, but the track hasn’t aged particularly well.

Only a few extras appear along with My Favorite Year, but at least we find an audio commentary from director Richard Benjamin. He offers a running, screen-specific piece that usually works quite well. Too much space passes between remarks at times, but this doesn’t become a significant issue. Benjamin largely focuses on the actors during his chat. He goes over the casting of the performers and also relates some insights into their work, usually in regard to O’Toole. Benjamin also adds his own perspective and some of the challenges behind the film, and this commentary seems reasonably lively and informative.

Otherwise, the DVD skimps on supplements. We get the film’s trailer, which appears in anamorphic 1.85:1. Lastly, a Cast and Crew domain rounds out the disc. As usual for Warner Bros. DVDs, we see a list of participants but can’t access information for most of them. The domain offers a filmography for Peter O’Toole and nothing else.

20 years after its initial release, My Favorite Year remains a charming and entertaining piece. The movie presents a nostalgic New York of fantasy and it seems winning and likable from start to finish, largely due to a terrific performance from Peter O’Toole. The DVD offers mediocre picture and sound plus a small roster of extras highlighted by a pretty good audio commentary. While the DVD seems somewhat lackluster, it comes with a fairly low list price, and the quality of the movie makes a purchase worthwhile.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0588 Stars Number of Votes: 34
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