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Marc Forster
Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman
Writing Credits:
Zach Helm

IRS Agent Harold Crick finds his world turned upside-down when he begins to hear his life being chronicled by a narrator only he can hear.

Box Office:
$38 million.
Opening Weekend
$13,411,093 on 2264 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
English Audio Descriptive Service
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $9.99
Release Date: 12/2/2008

• Audio Commentary with Director Marc Forster and Actors Will Ferrell and Dustin Hoffman
• Audio Commentary with Director Marc Forster, Production Designer Kevin Thompson, Visual Effects Designer Kevin Tod Haug, Director of Photography Roberto Schaefer and Producer Lindsay Duran
• Six Featurettes
• 9 Deleted/Extended Scenes
• Previews


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Stranger Than Fiction [Blu-Ray] (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 15, 2020)

With 2006’s Stranger Than Fiction, Will Ferrell left his usual broad comedy behind him. Instead, Ferrell went for a quirky comedy-drama that required him to avoid his standard shtick.

Ferrell plays Harold Crick, an IRS senior agent who values regularity and precision in his life. Suddenly, on Wednesday he starts to hear a voice – a voice that narrates his life.

This weirds him out, of course, but he attempts to carry on as normal, and through his job, he meets a radical baker named Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal). She only paid 78 percent of her taxes since she didn’t want to give the government money for causes she didn’t support. Despite their severe personality differences, Harold starts to fantasize about Anna.

From there we meet Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a novelist with writer’s block. The publisher assigns Penny Escher (Queen Latifah) to be her assistant and help along the process. Kay complains that she can’t figure out how to kill Harold, so Penny will assist her.

Back with Harold, he seems to ignore the narration until it mentions his imminent demise. This freaks out our hero, and he goes into crisis mode. He consults with experts and ends up with literature professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman).

It seems that Harold’s life is being written out as a novel, so they attempt to contrive ways to subvert his impending death. That thread leads to many changes in Harold’s life and a host of new experiences as we push toward his potential ending.

Stories like Fiction don’t come around very often, and they’re extremely difficult to do well. They balance so many odd elements and force us to accept such a high level of quirkiness that they threaten to collapse under the weight of their pretensions.

At best, we get involving efforts like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, while at worst we find self-indulgent claptrap.

To my pleasant surprise, Fiction falls on the Sunshine side of the street. Actually, both films have a lot of similarities, one being their awkward starts.

During the first act of Fiction, the painful preciousness of the premise threatens to overwhelm it and distance us from the material. The filmmakers’ use of annoying graphics to symbolize various elements causes some problems, and the painful simplicity of the portrayals creates low expectations.

However, once the story really starts to move, it gets much better. Fiction is an unusual product in that its structure allows it to embrace its clichés.

For instance, take every aspect of the Harold/Ana relationship. Neither character displays three-dimensionality, and it quickly turns into an obvious situation in which a wild free spirit loosens up a buttoned-down nerd. However, the unusual structure of things in which the protagonist has extra knowledge of his situation makes the events more interesting.

Indeed, the movie gets to revel in clichés and mock them to a degree. This isn’t a serious tongue in cheek effort but it can have its cake and eat it too.

Since it relies on our understanding of literary conventions, it can use them in a way that doesn’t seem pandering or simplistic. It plays with our expectations, so we aren’t allowed to call it trite. as it can respond by telling us it’s supposed to be trite!

Ferrell plays against type as the straight man, and he does well as Harold. In his early “dramatic” roles, I thought Carrey felt a little repressed and unnatural, as though he had to work really hard to avoid his typical enthusiasm.

That doesn’t mar Ferrell’s work. Of course, he’s never been as manic as Carrey, so while a larger than life presence at times, it’s not as much of a challenge for Ferrell to tame his normal attitude.

Nonetheless, it comes as a mild surprise how well Ferrell restrains himself. He never goes to his shtick in any way, and that helps make the performance more successful.

Fiction falters at times, mostly due to inconsistency. For instance, the narration comes and goes without much logic, as does the film’s “Graphic User Interface”.

These become distractions more when they disappear, if just because their absence makes little sense. When they pop up again, they stand out too much.

But those are minor complaints for an otherwise engaging flick. Anyway, it’s probably best not to overthink Stranger Than Fiction.

A movie built on such a precarious foundation could easily collapse, and excessive dissection would likely cause that downfall. Just immerse yourself in the flick’s offbeat world and enjoy the ride.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

Stranger Than Fiction appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a satisfactory presentation.

Sharpness came across well. A bit of softness materialized in wider shots, but the majority of the flick demonstrated good 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 fairly good definition and smoothness, though they could seem a little thick at times. For the most part, I felt happy with the image.

Though I didn’t expect a lot from the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack, I found a mix with pretty vivid 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.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? The lossless audio felt a bit warmer and fuller, while visuals seemed better defined and more vivid. This became a good upgrade.

Not found on the DVD, we get two audio commentaries, and the first comes from director Marc Forster and actors Will Ferrell and Dustin Hoffman. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, and related domains.

Expect a loose, humorous commentary here. While he learn some movie-based nuggets, much of the track consists of joking among the three, with Hoffman as the catalyst.

Chats like this can get stale quickly, but this one works pretty well. Heck, how often do you hear an Oscar-winning actor like Hoffman wonder if Queen Latifah would’ve gone to the prom with him? This becomes a largely entertaining chat.

For the second track, we hear from Forster, production designer Kevin Thompson, visual effects designer Kevin Tod Haug, director of photography Roberto Schaefer and producer Lindsay Duran. (Production assistant Robin Gonsalves also chimes in briefly toward the end.)

The commentary mainly addresses technical areas, so we learn about sets and locations, costumes, effects, editing, music, and related domains. The participants interact well and help make this a brisk, informative track.

As we shift to extras, we find six separate featurettes. Actors In Search of a Story goes for 18 minutes, 37 seconds as 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, 32 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, 29-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, 28 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, 13-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 three-minute 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.

Nine Deleted and Extended Scenes appear. These span a total of 32 minutes, 21 seconds. Many of these offer improv comedy bits, and we also get a few added character bits, mainly related to Karen Eiffel.

The improv moments offer mirth, and the pre-effects clip in which we see Ferrell have to react to nothing as a crane smashes into his apartment is fun. The expansions of Eiffel tend to feel too mawkish, though.

Note that the DVD only included two scenes, and those filled 11 minutes, 22 seconds. This means we get an extra 21 minutes of material on the Blu-ray.

The disc includes Previews for Talladega Nights and Lakeview Terrace. 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 Blu-ray offers good picture and audio along with a strong roster of bonus materials. This becomes a nice release for an engaging fantasy.

To rate this film visit the prior review of STRANGER THAN FICTION

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main