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Meet the Patels DVD Review

Meet the Patels (2015) movie poster Meet the Patels

Theatrical Release: September 11, 2015 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: PG

Directors: Geeta V. Patel, Ravi V. Patel / Writers: Geeta V. Patel, Ravi V. Patel, Billy McMillin, Matthew Hamachek

Subjects: Ravi V. Patel, Vasant K. Patel, Champa V. Patel, Audrey Alison Wauchope, Geeta V. Patel

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On its menu and back cover, Meet the Patels describes itself as a real-life romantic comedy. It's a fair description and a succinct way to convey how this 2015 film differs from other new documentaries in tone and subject matter.

Approaching the age of 30,
first-generation Indian-American actor Ravi Patel is feeling pressure from his traditional parents to get married. The conversation comes to the foreground on the family's annual trip to India, which Ravi takes after breaking up with his girlfriend of two years, a white girl named Audrey whose existence he never disclosed to his parents. Ravi's parents are intent on setting their son up with a fellow Patel, of which there are countless hailing from a few different parts of India.

With Ravi's blessing, his father begins exchanging biodatas, matrimonial resumes that are evidently commonplace in the Indian community which describe skin colors like "wheatish brown" and list all pertinent physical attributes, education, and family information. Ravi goes around the nation to meet these Indian-American girls and see if he feels any sparks. He then begins trying the usual American dating websites.

Vasant Patel uses a map to show his son Ravi the areas of India where Patels come from in "Meet the Patels."

Self-deprecating and funny, Ravi is conflicted. He is reluctant to commit, eager to appease his parents, and enamored enough with his culture to want a life partner to share it with him. But he's also clearly not over Audrey, making you suspect these arranged meetings and Patel conventions could lead him back to her.

Meet the Patels assigns directing credits to both Ravi and his sister Geeta, who though rarely showing up on camera, is dealing with similar concerns, being nearly 30 and single. (She is the target of the film's most brutal line from the Patel patriarch: "Not getting married and staying single is the biggest loser you can be.") The two siblings are clearly products of a different generation and their lives in America have left them with different feelings towards marriage than their parents, who knew each other for ten minutes before being wed.

Presented primarily in the old 1.33:1 standard aspect ratio (it was apparently filmed back in 2009), the film is like a home movie and more or less began as that before the family realized they had something with interest not only to their cinematically underrepresented community but to the public at large. The film also makes extensive and inspired use of animation, cartooning Ravi in the prologue and occasional other confessional scenes.

"Meet the Patels" occasionally presents Ravi Patel as a large-nosed cartoon character.

Widely appreciated by critics, Meet the Patels grossed $1.7 million from a max theater count of just 101,
a not insignificant sum for a documentary and easily the year's most successful release from Alchemy, a young studio formerly named Millennium Entertainment whose 2015 Nicole Kidman and Kristen Wiig films failed to find audiences.

This crowd-pleaser is the kind of thing you could easily being turned into a narrative film and already there are plans for that. In October, Fox Searchlight Pictures, distributor of such hits as Slumdog Millionaire and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, acquired remake rights from the Patel siblings for $1 million. Paging Aziz Ansari...

Despite Patels' qualified box office success, Alchemy opts not to bring this documentary to Blu-ray, releasing it on DVD today, weeks after it became available on demand.

Meet the Patels DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Black Keepcase Also available on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Meet the Patels exhibits the technical limitations of a homegrown documentary, with a lot of the film utilizing the aforementioned 1.33:1 aspect ratio and a less than professional look most of the time. Still, the film looks quite okay in standard definition and its sound equipment is more than sufficient to capture the talk. Nonetheless, thickly-accented parents and an infrequent amount of Gujarati dialogue prompts burned-in English subtitles.

"Meet the Patels" uses its DVD main menu to call itself a real-life romantic comedy, just in case you hadn't heard.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The only real extra here is Meet the Patels' original theatrical trailer (2:24), which joins the disc-opening ones for Unexpected, People Places Things, Welcome to Me, and You Are Here on a Previews menu.

The main menu sets a montage of clips to a loop of the film's end credits tune "Love Is Love" by Soul Purpose. Submenus are silent and static.

No slipcover or inserts jazz up the plain black keepcase, whose full-color disc adapts the poster/cover art.

At his traditional Indian parents' prodding, Ravi Patel goes searching for a life partner in "Meet the Patels."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Meet the Patels is a refreshingly light-hearted alternative to the somberness and severity of most new theatrical documentaries. Playing just like a real-life romantic comedy as billed (but without the stupidity and convention that comes with the turf), this family portrait amuses and even moves to a degree. It is worth a look, whether in this unremarkable, barebones DVD or on Netflix, where it has been streaming for some time.

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Text copyright 2016 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2015 Alchemy, Four in a Billion Pictures, Independent Television Service (ITVS), Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Impact Partners,
The Center for Asian American Media, Whitewater Films, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Hartley Film Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute and 2016 Alchemy. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.