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Our Very Own DVD Review

Our Very Own (2005) movie poster Our Very Own

Television Premiere: December 11, 2006 / Running Time: 106 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Cameron Watson

Cast: Allison Janney (Joan Whitfield), Cheryl Hines (Sally Crowder), Jason Ritter (Clancy Whitfield), Hilarie Burton (Bobbie Chester), Faith Prince (Athylene Tucker), Mary Badham (Mrs. Nutbush), Autumn Reeser (Melora Kendal), Derek Carter (Ray Simms), Michael McKee (Glen Tidwell), Amy Landers (Rhoda Kendal), Beth Grant (Virginia Kendal), Keith Carradine (Billy Whitfield), Dale Dickey (Skillet), Allison Mackie (Sheila Tidwell), T. Scott Cunningham (Dr. Denny Dunwitty), Steven Griffith (Buzz), Richard Jenik (Danny Prescott), John Will Clay (Ricky Pranger), Martha McNeely (Doreen Nutbush), Lisa Norman (Millie Jo), Rhoda Griffis (Fanny), Deborah Jordan (Peggy)

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Our Very Own attempts to bring viewers back in time. It is sure to trigger memories for those who in the late 1970s spent their teenage years in a small, close-knit community in the United States' rural South. Statistically, that's a clear minority. For those of us who aren't approaching the big 5-0 and have never spoken with a genuine drawl, the world appears at least somewhat foreign. It also appears, initially, to be used merely for nostalgic purposes, as an excuse for the twentysomethings playing teens to dress up in period clothes and speak in southern dialects while an obligatory smattering of contemporary pop tunes commands the soundtrack.

Gladly, a story and, more interestingly, a core cast of characters begin to emerge and take the reins from the Tennessee Edition of "I Love the '70s." At the center of the film are five young people in their mid-teens who, with some effort, find ways to make the summertime fun in the slow, tiny city of Shelbyville, TN.
Clancy (Jason Ritter of "The Class" and "Joan of Arcadia"), Melora ("The O.C."'s Autumn Reeser), Bobbie (Hilarie Burton, "One Tree Hill"), Glen (Michael McKee), and Ray (Derek Carter, "Campus Ladies") spend their days deciding whose turn it is to provide a car for the group. At night, they either drive to Nashville in search of excitement or make the most of dull local sights like a photography store window.

Most of this 5-friend group gets some form of character development, like Bobbie having a stalker/bully/redneck not-quite-boyfriend (John Will Clay) and Glen developing an apparently homosexual love for musical theatre. More substantial time is spent with the quirky families of couple Clancy and Melora. Outside of the youths, Clancy's parents claim the most attention. Their struggles with alcoholism, lack of employment, and increasing financial hardship are fairly familiar and though a few images depicting these trials stand out, most of their sequences could be exchanged with those of troubled parents from another film with little harm. Still, the dilemmas of the scatterbrained Mom (Allison Janney, "The West Wing") and deadbeat Dad (Nashville's Keith Carradine) hold our interest.

"Our Very Own": It's not "That '70s Show", but "That '70s Movie." Billy (Keith Carradine) and Joan Whitfield (Alison Janney) talk things over in their very '70s kitchen.

The same can be said of the central plot point, which finds the small town abuzz at the prospect of Shelbyville native-turned-Hollywood star Sondra Locke returning home. The rumor is Locke will show up for the "Pencil City"'s annual Walking Horse Festival and the premiere of Every Which Way But Loose, one of a number of major films she's been headlining with lover Clint Eastwood. The focal teens, especially the peppy, optimistic Melora, are so thrilled by the possibility of meeting their hometown heroine that they plan a little show to pay tribute to the actress's work.

Such a strange and mildly anachronistic premise would seem to demand an appearance from the real Locke, but she's a no-show regardless of what happens. Another Oscar-nominated yesteryear actress does surface, however. Mary Badham, who long ago portrayed the inquisitive Scout (daughter to Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch) in To Kill a Mockingbird, comes out of a 40-year performance retirement to give a silent but noticeable cameo late in the film.

Our Very Own is the child of actor Cameron Watson, a 15-year veteran of TV guess spots, who makes his writing, producing, and directing debuts here. A middle-aged product of Shelbyville, he is unquestionably able to bring a verisimilitude to the proceedings. The distinctive setting is the most praiseworthy aspect of production. Easily absorbed both in sight and sound, the abundant flavor helps to compensate for a narrative that's less than inspired. The family drama is able to elicit a few chuckles, thanks largely to Beth Grant who coasts in her effective standard mode as Melora's protective but distant mother. The screenplay also supplies some solidarity for women in their 40s, as Janney and Cheryl Hines (playing her friend) do well with personas that will seem recognizable to many and sympathetic to most.

Joan gets some grocery store solace from her two best friends, Sally (Cheryl Hines) and Sheila (Allison Mackie). Of the young group of friends, our greatest interest lies with budding couple Clancy (Jason Ritter) and Melora (Autumn Reeser).

In the end, the movie isn't able to do much more than recreate a time, a place, and an adolescence marked by tumultuous family life. That, however, appears to be all that Watson wants to achieve.
Rather than telling a story, he provides a scattered, esoteric, flavorful slice of life that is realized in a textbook, low-key way. Young viewers attracted by the presence of actors they know from TV's teen dramas might find Our Very Own sluggish and serene by comparison. Adults nearing 50 should be a lot more piqued. It's not quite American Graffiti, Grease, or even Dazed and Confused. But, like those movies, it looks back fondly at a period with the benefit of hindsight, managing to intrigue those who didn't experience it.

Our Very Own arrives on DVD over two full years since its debut screening at June 2005's Los Angeles Film Festival. Its bland cover art projects a Little Miss Sunshine feel by prominently featuring a canine-topped car shown in the film in a few passing glimpses. The first project made by Watson's GADA Films, the movie was picked up by Miramax last fall and treated to a run on Disney's strongest pay cable ally, Starz, last December.

Having not received a conventional theatrical release, Our Very Own wasn't submitted to the MPAA for a rating. If it was, it'd definitely garner a PG-13. There are some adult themes but nothing harsher than what's offered on the young stars' teen dramas. A small number of four-letter words and a sex scene that cuts out before two virginities are lost would be enough to justify the commonly-issued PG-13.

Buy Our Very Own on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish;
Closed Captioned
Release Date: July 3, 2007
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Black Keepcase with Side Snaps

VIDEO and AUDIO

Our Very Own appears in its intended 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio and, though the case doesn't say so, it certainly is enhanced for 16x9 displays.
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Despite the lack of big studio backing, the movie looks quite good, with only rarely-noticeable instances of softness and occasionally excessive grain keeping it from visual perfection.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track does an ample job as the disc's lone audio option. Dialogue tends to be crisp and intelligible, though the thick Tennessee accents will surely have some viewers (raises hand) reaching for the remote to rewind and check the subtitle track from time to time. There is some use of the surrounds for the crowd scenes late in the film and beyond that, the mix handles the period music and score in fine, even fashion.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The disc opens with trailers for Disney's lame-looking live action Underdog and Hollywood Pictures flop The Invisible, as well as that ubiquitous promo that equates buying pirated DVDs with stealing a handbag. The two trailers plus one for Wild Hogs are accessible from the Sneak Peeks menu. That's all one gets in the way of bonus features, aside from the chapter insert inside the case. That unfortunately contradicts a comment made last fall by writer-director-producer Cameron Watson that "excellent behind the scene footage and interviews will be incorporated into the DVD."

The still menus offer a road map backdrop that's decorated with photographs and souvenirs. Short selections of score accompany the Main and Scenes menus.

The older brother from "Joan of Arcadia" and the father from "Andre" share an uneasy moment at the cemetery. Left to right: Jason Ritter, Derek Carter, Autumn Reeser, Michael McKee, and Hilarie Burton. They'll always be together!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

There is a small group of people that Our Very Own is most likely to delight: those who grew up in the South in the 1970s, those who consider themselves fans of the eclectic cast, and those who enjoy discovering tiny independent films more apt to be found by word-of-mouth than through conventional marketing. If you're in one of those groups, you should scout this out and give it a viewing. The high list price and seemingly needless lack of extras do discourage an impulse to buy, but the movie merits a rental for those interested.

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Related Reviews:
Miramax: Venus The Queen Carolina Daltry Calhoun Tsotsi Prozac Nation
Tennesseans: Davy Crockett: Two Movie Set Hannah Montana: The Movie Mickey Mouse Club: Best of Britney, Justin & Christina
Coming-of-Age: Middle of Nowhere Tex Tuck Everlasting Jump In! A Wrinkle in Time Step Up White Fang

The Cast of Our Very Own:
Allison Janney: Juno Away We Go 10 Things I Hate About You Finding Nemo
Cheryl Hines: Labor Pains Herbie: Fully Loaded Scrubs: Season 5
Beth Grant: Extract The Rookie No Country for Old Men
Richard Jenik: The Miracle Match | Lisa Norman: Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

1. Source of Watson quote: 'Our Very Own' to be shown on STARZ. Mosely, Brian. Shelbyville Times-Gazette. November 21 2006.

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Reviewed June 30, 2007.