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Flipped Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

Flipped (2010) movie poster Flipped

Theatrical Release: August 6, 2010 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: PG / Songs List

Director: Rob Reiner / Writers: Wendelin Van Draanen (novel); Rob Reiner, Andrew Scheinman (screenplay)

Cast: Madeline Carroll (Juli Baker), Callan McAuliffe (Bryce Loski), Rebecca De Mornay (Patsy Loski), Anthony Edwards (Steven Loski), John Mahoney (Chet Duncan), Penelope Ann Miller (Trina Baker), Aidan Quinn (Richard Baker), Kevin Weisman (Daniel Baker), Morgan Lily (Young Juli), Ryan Ketzner (Young Bryce), Gillian Pfaff (Young Lynetta), Ashley Taylor (Sherry Stalls), Israel Broussard (Garrett Einbinder), Cody Horn (Lynetta Loski), Stefanie Scott (Dana Tressler), Michael Christopher Bolten (Mark Baker), Shane Harper (Matt Baker), Matthew Gold (Eddie Trulock)

Buy Flipped from Amazon.com: DVD • Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • Video On Demand


and Kelvin Cedeno

For someone whose name I wouldn't count on the average person knowing, Rob Reiner has directed a remarkable number of widely known and loved movies. The cover of Flipped, his latest film, identifies him as the director of The Bucket List and Stand by Me. They are appropriate selections; the former because it is Reiner's most recent hit and the latter because it also centered on Baby Boomers in their youth. But among the director's fourteen previous feature films, When Harry Met Sally... (which garnered a poster mention) might be the most related.

Like it, Flipped follows a male and female treading a line between romance and friendship.

Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) and Juli Baker (Swing Vote's Madeline Carroll) are neighbors and classmates in some unidentified suburb in 1963. Bryce thinks Juli is kind of annoying. Juli thinks Bryce is kind of dreamy. Beginning with their first meeting as second graders, the film shares the two kids' experiences. There is a gimmick: the experiences are relayed from Bryce's point of view and narration for about five minutes, then Juli takes over for five minutes, then it's back to Bryce, and so on and so forth. That design is not entirely new, but it's definitely not overworn; it reminded me of the 1991 Kevin Bacon/Elizabeth Perkins romantic comedy He Said, She Said, which isn't exactly on the general public's mind these days.

Preteen romance is inherently "cute." The conflicting perspective device: also "cute." Stack both on a film already relying heavily on an idyllic past setting and it is like an open invitation for the adjective "saccharine." Fortunately, it doesn't really belong here. Sure, Flipped is precious and well aware of that fact. But it earns a just plain "sweet" with its tactful and savory presentation.

Each situation Bryce and Juli find themselves in plays well from both points of view. We sympathize with him when she seems to be coming on strong. We sympathize with her when he doesn't seem to be coming on strong enough. Since the two are in seventh grade for the majority of the film, the movie never falls into the familiarity of relationship movies. In fact, there really isn't a relationship in a romantic sense. Still, everything is new and exciting for them and interesting enough for us to want to consider from multiple perspectives.

Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll) establishes herself as a literal tree hugger, as she clings to this tall Sycamore scheduled to be chopped down. Bryce's (Callan McAuliffe)'s acceptance and secret disposal of Juli's family eggs is one of the film's biggest storylines.

Flipped has a real "Wonder Years" vibe going for it, not just in the '60s Anytown setting (something not present in Wendelin Van Draanen's 2001 book), full supply of period tunes, use of voiceover, and interest in the opposite sex. The movie also offers wit, wisdom, and a rich understanding of human complexity. As in that esteemed Fred Savage series, the interactions aren't always smooth. There are some clear tensions between the Bakers, who have not been maintaining the front lawn of their rented home, and the Loskis, who notice and disapprove. Flipped doesn't belabor the class differences and varying work ethics, but it is just one of many compelling layers found. Most of the Bakers' money has been going towards the private care afforded the patriarch's "retarded" brother (Kevin Weisman).

Recalling "The Wonder Years" and He Said, She Said are not the only ways in which Reiner's film harks back to the 1980s and early 1990s. Flipped fills its parental roles with actors who wielded some star power and promise back then but have become scarce and forgotten in the years since. There is Legends of the Fall's Aidan Quinn, Adventures in Babysitting's Penelope Ann Miller, and Risky Business's Rebecca De Mornay, each of whom may require a double take and some squinting to recognize. All three give respectable turns in parts most viewers won't linger on. Getting slightly more substance are '90s-2000s NBC stars Anthony Edwards ("ER") and John Mahoney ("Frasier") as a father and grandfather with contentment and communication issues, not all of which are brought to the surface.

Of course, the actors who will most stand out for most viewers are the young leads themselves. This is the third film I've seen top-billed Carroll in and the first well-suited to her evident talents. Having a smaller range to explore, the Australian McAuliffe keeps up with her without any hint of an accent.

The Loski family looks at their neighbor's unkempt lawn with patriarch Steven (Anthony Edwards) offering unfriendly judgment. Juli (Madeline Carroll) gets some much needed landscaping assistance from Bryce's widowed grandfather Chet (John Mahoney).

A nostalgic children's romantic dramedy doesn't seem to be an easy thing to market, so I don't know how much blame Warner should get for treating Flipped to a limited release in the dog days of August. My initial impressions of the movie were that it looked like something people would quite enjoy but not something they'd pay to see in theaters. That may explain the blink-and-miss run, which earned just $1.76 million, or less than a seventh of the reported $14 M production budget.
It's not like Reiner's movies always do strong business at the box office; two of his most admired films (The Princess Bride and This is Spinal Tap) didn't earn their followings until television and home video.

Flipped experiences the latter now, having hit stores on the week of Black Friday with new key art featuring one of the more egregious uses of Photoshop head replacement out there. Like all modern Warner theatrical movies, Flipped was released on DVD and in a 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy. We look at the combo pack here, which is all that the studio sends out for review nowadays.

Though seemingly a nice way to future-proof your collection at no additional cost, Warner's combo packs are pretty disappointing for standard DVD customers like myself. That is because the DVD included differs from the one sold separately. The combo's pared-down DVD drops extras, trailers, even foreign dubs and menus, presumably to make room for the digital copy files and to nudge the consumer into making Blu-ray their preferred format.

Flipped Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: DTS-HD 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Most Extras Subtitled
Release Date: November 23, 2010
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Standalone DVD ($27.98 SRP)

VIDEO and AUDIO

On DVD, Flipped appears in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, approximating its 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The picture quality is just not as good as what other studios are providing and not as good as what Warner used to offer. The chief problem is compression; artifacts are pretty noticeable from time to time. Now, the digital copies might be partly to blame for that. The transferrable computer and portable device versions take up 1.28 GB of space, which is somewhat substantial considering that the feature itself is given just a little over 4 GB (the combo disc inexplicably comes in 2 GB beneath DVD-9 capacity).
Fairly recent figures have shown that digital copies are redeemed by a small minority of the population. Why is serving this minority worth creating a subpar feature presentation for? There are many factors to consider: a simple download code requires Internet data transfer, which has costs. It also invites passing on the downloads to those who haven't bought the DVD (lost sales = bad business, although assuming a handed-off digital copy equals a lost sale may very well be flawed). So does putting a digital copy on a separate disc, as most other studios do. I think offering a download that's only accessible with the disc in your drive seems like it would be a better alternative to Warner's current standard, even if it requires some minimal redemption charge.

If you're a Blu-ray customer, you must be thinking: if I care so much about picture quality, I should really have a Blu-ray player. That's not an invalid point, but my answer would be that I'm happy with the excellence that standard DVD can offer. Something is not right if Warner's DVDs from six years ago are looking noticeably better than those from today. And it's not just those digital copies that are to blame. DVD quality standards simply seem to be decreasing at Warner. I'm not even sure that Flipped's standalone DVD would look better than this (it would save time and effort if both versions used the same feature presentation).

For all this discussion, Flipped doesn't really look so bad here. It helps that there is not a great deal of action in this film. Characters who stay in place and simply talk are a much smaller challenge for DVD compression and thus keep the mosquito noise somewhat scarce (but not scarce enough). The warm, sun-drenched visuals hold up pretty well.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack feels like it could be plain Dolby Surround. The rear channels offer slight reinforcement of music but almost no atmosphere or dialogue. The front of the field does just fine, but this is a very basic and narrow mix. As stated earlier, foreign tracks are dropped for this combo, which means that the individual DVD's Spanish 5.1 dub is lost. Subtitles in English, French, and Spanish are retained. They're actually the only reason the DVD possesses a second menu (even scene selection pages are nowhere to be found).

The Blu-ray transfer won't be winning any awards, but it's solid, regardless. The compression problems that plague the DVD are gone here. Viewers should keep in mind that this film's nostalgia is heavily enforced via its visuals. The whole thing has a soft, rosy look that prevents it from exhibiting razor-sharp detail. That doesn't mean it's a blurry mess, either. The image is adequately crisp, just not up to the most people's expectations for the format. And that's the way it should be. The transfer is an accurate reflection of the intended look, and the softness mixed with the practically glowing hues is inviting. Just don't expect a Pixar film.

The DTS-HD 5.1 track is as front-heavy as the DVD's track. This is not a film meant to blow out your surround sound system. Effects are few and far between, music is low-key, and dialogue takes center stage. The lattermost aspect is crisp and clear, but never plays with directionality, always sticking with the front speakers. Surrounds are used for only the most minimal of ambience. Anybody expecting a demo track is looking at the wrong film, but considering its aspirations, the quality seems just fine.

"Anatomy of a Near Kiss" has actors Madeline Carroll and Callan McAuliffe struggling to get through a climactic moment without bursting into laughter. Director Rob Reiner reflects back on casting the film’s two leads and how much harder is was to find the right Bryce in "The Differences Between a Boy and a Girl."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The DVD of the combo pack contains no bonus features. With the way Warner has minimized extras on new theatrical releases' DVDs, you're hardly missing out. The DVD sold separately actually includes just one feature, "Flipped: Anatomy of a Near Kiss" (3:18). In it, actors Madeline Carroll and Callan McAuliffe reveal how awkward it was to film the almost-kiss. Footage of their many (flubbed) takes is shown, along with one cute instance where Reiner directs them to fully kiss, to extreme reactions. I have more use for this than the digital copies, but that's just me.

The Blu-ray includes three exclusive additional bonus features.

"The Differences Between a Boy and a Girl" (6:32) again focuses on Carroll and McAuliffe. They discuss their respective characters, and Rob Reiner reminisces about the casting process and what he was looking for. The comments are pretty rudimentary, but the clip is harmless.

These unsung stars of the film are the subject of the curiously titled "Embarrassing Egg-scuses." Callan McAuliffe comes to the rescue with scientific materials for anyone who wants to know "How to Make the Best Volcano." The DVD of the combo pack dilutes the experience to the bare essentials: Play Movie and Languages.

Similarly, "Embarrassing Egg-scuses" (5:01) doesn't tell us very much, but it does provide some nice behind-the-scenes footage. The topic here is the chicken coup Juli raises. Animal coordinators discuss some of the challenges of hen actresses, and Carroll admits to her discomfort at having to hold them.

The extras wrap up with "How to Make the Best Volcano" (4:54). McAuliffe hosts a cheeky tutorial on creating the same type of active volcano his character makes in the film. Those who wish to build such a model should find this fairly helpful.

The Blu-ray opens with trailers for Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and Lottery Ticket.

The DVD's main menu gives us a central slice of the poster artwork with a loop of Marc Shaiman score. The Blu-ray's still menu replicates the cover artwork, the pop-up menu expanding from the bottom up on a semi-transparent block.

The combo is packaged in a standard slim blue keepcase which is housed in a slipcover. While those cardboard sleeves have been commonplace and redundant, the ones on Warner's combo packs are important because they appear to be the only way to identify a copy as a Blu-ray combo pack and not just a single Blu-ray disc. The keepcase art below loses all references to DVD and digital copy. I'm not sure how long it takes before combo packs to disappear in favor of an unslipcovered Blu-ray-only release, but the digital copy is supposedly only redeemable for a year from street date. The authorization code is the only insert inside the case.

Juli (Madeline Carroll) takes pleasure in a classroom whiff of Bryce's (Callan McAuliffe) blonde hair. It smells like watermelon.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Rob Reiner's Flipped is a good movie and one that adults are as likely to enjoy as kids (if not more so). This is a pure word-of-mouth film, to which I lend my voice in support.

With that said, as a viewer only interested in DVD, I'm really not crazy about Warner's combo packs. The feature presentation is lacking and the DVD is about as void of bonus features as possible. Not that the individual DVD is likely to be much better on either front. But the minimal effort there and here renders what could have been a nice purchase into strictly a rental. And with this coming from the most voluminous studio out there, is it any wonder that sales continue to plummet?

Buy the Blu-ray Combo from Amazon.com / Buy the DVD / Buy the Book by Wendelin Van Draanen

Buy from Amazon.com

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Flipped Songs List (in order of use): Curtis Lee - "Pretty Little Angel Eyes", The Chiffons - "One Fine Day", The Chiffons - "He's So Fine", Clyde McPhatter - "A Lover's Question", The Everly Brothers - "Crying in the Rain", "Stand by Me", The Ventures - "Walk Don't Run", Duane Eddy - "Rebel Rouser", Dave "Baby" Cortez - "The Happy Organ", The Drifters - "There Goes My Baby", "Bonanza", "What's Your Name", The Miracles - "You've Really Got a Hold on Me", The Everly Brothers - "Devoted to You", Fats Domino - "I'm Walkin'", The Big Bopper - "Chantilly Lace", Barbara George - "I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)", Bruce Channel - "Hey! Baby!", Dion & The Belmonts - "A Teenager in Love", The Crystals - "Da Doo Ron Ron", The Kalin Twins - "When", The Everly Brothers - "Bird Dog", Phil Everly - "Let it Be Me"

Flipped: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack:
Download from iTunes • Download MP3s from Amazon.com • Buy CD from Amazon.com

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Reviewed December 8, 2010.



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