Stranger Than Fiction appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. No significant issues developed during this strong transfer.
Sharpness consistently came across well. Only a little softness ever materialized, as the majority of the flick demonstrated strong clarity and delineation. I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement was minimal. Source flaws failed to crop up at any point.
Colors worked well. Much of the movie stayed with a light, chilly palette, though it warmed up as the film progressed. The tones always seemed appropriate and well-developed. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows showed good definition and smoothness. I found a lot to like about this fine presentation.
Though I didn’t expect much from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, I found a mix with a lot of life. Much of the film stayed subdued, with good atmosphere on display and positive imaging for the music. Those dominated, but the movie offered plenty of scenes with greater breadth. These included car accidents, storms, the assault on Harold’s apartment and a few other pieces. I liked these elements as they helped make the flick more involving and lively.
Audio quality always seemed strong. Music was bright and dynamic, with crisp highs and tight lows. Effects sounded accurate and vivid, while speech was concise and distinctive. I found much good material in this satisfying soundtrack.
As we shift to extras, we find six separate featurettes. Actors In Search of a Story goes for 18 minutes, 35 seconds as it presents movie pieces, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from director Marc Forster, screenwriter Zach Helm, executive producer Eric Kopeloff, producer Lindsay Doran, and actors Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Queen Latifah, Tony Hale, Tom Hulce, and Linda Hunt.
“Search” looks at casting, characters and performances. A few decent notes emerge, but the show usually exists to praise the actors. Other than some nice behind the scenes glimpses and a few funny comments from Hoffman, this is a lackluster piece.
After this we find Building the Team. It lasts eight minutes, 31 seconds and features Forster, Doran, Kopeloff, Ferrell, Hoffman, Thompson, Helm, production designer Kevin Thompson, visual effects designer Kevin Tod Haug, director of photography Roberto Schaefer, editor Matt Chesse, and graphic artists Jed Carter and Tim Fisher. It looks at various members of the crew. We hear about Forster’s attributes as well as cinematography, visual design, effects, and storytelling. Expect a repeat of “Search”, as “Team” gives us generalities without much detail. It never turns into an informative program.
For the 10-minute and 28-second On Location In Chicago, we get remarks from Forster, Kopeloff, Doran, Kevin Thompson, Helm, Haug, Chesse, and Illinois Film Office managing director Brenda Sexton. We get notes on how the filmmakers chose Chicago as the flick’s locale as well as issues related to shooting there and location specifics. After two puffy programs, “Chicago” proves substantially more satisfying. It gives us a nice examination of the spots used for the film and why they were chosen. It’s a tight little show.
Words On a Page runs nine minutes, 26 seconds and includes Forster, Helm, Doran, and Ferrell. “Page” examines the script and story. We get notes about the screenplay’s development, its tone, and related elements. “Page” goes through these components in a pretty satisfying manner. I wouldn’t call it a stellar featurette, but it creates a useful look at the text.
Next comes the 17-minute and 11-second Picture a Number: the Evolution of a GUI. It presents statements from Forster, Haug, Chesse, Carter, Fisher, FX Cartel’s Gunnar Hansen and graphic artist Ben Radatz. They talk about the flick’s use of a “Graphic User Interface” for Harold and offer details about its creation and execution. Plenty of good facts pop up here, and the presence of interesting test footage rounds out the package in a nice way. The program provides a nice view of a potentially dry topic.
Finally, we discover On the Set. This two-minute and 59-second piece sets various shots of the production to music. It’s too much of a music video to provide a satisfactory glimpse of the set.
Two Deleted and Extended Scenes appear. We find “Book Channel Interview with Karen Eiffel (Extended)” (6:27) and “Book Channel Interview with Peter Allen Prothero” (4:55). It’s a stretch to call these “scenes”, really, since both were designed to play in the background. In the final flick, “Eiffel” offers some plot points, but here it’s just fun. Emma Thompson and Kristin Chenoweth improv together in a delightful way to make this clip very amusing.
“Prothero” works the same way; here Chenoweth interviews an author played by visual effects designer Kevin Tod Haug. This was originally intended to appear in the background at Professor Hilbert’s office but didn’t make the cut at all. Chenoweth continues to entertain, but Haug’s non-existent acting skills make the clip less fun.
The DVD opens with some ads. We get promos for Premonition, The Holiday, and Casino Royale. These also appear in the disc’s Previews area along with trailers for The Pursuit of Happyness, Marie Antoinette, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Bewitched, and the Stranger Than Fiction soundtrack. No trailer for Fiction appears on the disc.
Stranger Than Fiction walks a thin line between clever and stupid. It only occasionally ventures into the latter territory, as it usually seems bright and involving. The DVD offers very good picture and audio along with some decent featurettes. The movie at least deserves a rental viewing.