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Submarine DVD Review

Submarine (2011) U.S. movie poster Submarine

US Theatrical Release: June 3, 2011 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Richard Ayoade / Writers: Joe Dunthorne (novel), Richard Ayoade (screenplay) / Songs List

Cast: Noah Taylor (Lloyd Tate), Paddy Considine (Graham Purvis), Craig Roberts (Oliver Tate), Yasmin Paige (Jordana Bevan), Sally Hawkins (Jill Tate), Darren Evans (Chips), Osian Cai Dulais (Mark Pritchard), Lily McCann (Zoe Preece), Otis Lloyd (Keiron), Elinor Crawley (Abby Smuts), Steffan Rhdori (Mr. Davey), Gemma Chan (Kim-Lin), Melanie Walters (Jude Bevan), Sion Tudor Owen (Brynn Bevan), Adrienne O'Sullivan (Jackie), Jonny Weir (Malcolm), Lydia Fox (Miss Dutton)

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One thing we know about Ben Stiller is that he likes to put his stamp of approval on the work of British comedians. When the hilarious television series of Steve Coogan came to DVD in the United States, they did so with Stiller's endorsement on the case. Stiller then became the first movie star (and one of just a few Americans) to send himself up on Ricky Gervais' series "Extras." Not shy in sharing his respect, Stiller gave both Coogan and Gervais roles in his Night at the Museum movies and Coogan another part in Tropic Thunder.

Stiller takes his appreciation for British comedy to a new level with Submarine, a small film he executive-produces, silently cameos in, and "presents."

The budding romance of Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige) and Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is one of the primary focuses of the curiously-titled "Submarine."

Adapted from Joe Dunthorne's 2008 novel, Submarine has nothing to do with watercrafts. This coming-of-age dramedy centers on Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), a teenaged boy who enters into the first romantic relationship of his life in 1980s Wales. The object of his affections is the pudgy, red-coated Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige), whom he notices taking certain delight in their joint bullying of a fat girl.

Awkward, introspective, and himself the occasional target of bullies, Oliver is thrust into romance with Jordana when she surprises him with a photographically documented kissing session.
The photos are supposed to make him seem cooler, but Oliver's classmates fade from thought as he becomes smitten with Jordana. The two share bike rides with live sparklers hanging out of the spokes. He lets her burn off a few leg hairs with matches. Just your ordinary quirky independent movie's notion of young love!

While pleased with his loss of virginity and gain of a girlfriend, Oliver is a bit troubled by his parents' present lack of a love life, made evident by their bedroom light never being left in dimmed mode. Oliver's nerdy marine biologist father Lloyd (Noah Taylor) seems passionless, while his solemn mother Jill (Sally Hawkins) is spending a discomforting amount of time with her old friend, strangely-fashioned motivational psychic next door Graham Purvis (Paddy Considine), who fancies himself a rock star of sorts. Oliver is convinced an affair is brewing between Mum and Graham and that takes his mind off Jordana when she needs him the most. Her mother is dealing with a potentially fatal brain tumor, a situation Oliver finds uncomfortable.

Sally Hawkins is anything but happy-go-lucky as Oliver's solemn mother Jill. Motivational psychic next door Graham Purvis (Paddy Considine) gets his own cardboard standee at his appearance.

Submarine feels like the child of Wes Anderson and Woody Allen. Oliver is disposed to the neurotic, intellectual, romantic philosophizing of many Allen protagonists, while the film that houses him is full of Anderson's eye for detail and cheerful, distinctive quirks. Those are not bad models for a coming-of-age romance to aspire to and one can't fault Submarine for effort or flavor. But the film never quite makes its way into your heart as it intends to.

Making his feature debut as screenwriter/director, Richard Ayoade, an English actor best known for his role as the nerdy Moss on "The IT Crowd" (and will soon be seen in Stiller's recently, stupidly retitled The Watch), does an admirable job of paying homage to his icons (like The Graduate's Mike Nichols and Harold and Maude's Hal Ashby) and emulating what works in their films. That said, Oliver Tate is not the easiest hero to warm to. Unlike Ben Braddock and Max Fischer, Oliver's transgressions seem kind of hard to overlook, his motivations not convincingly sold and his narrow world view only appealing when compared to even more obnoxious brats, like his foul-mouthed classmates.

Oliver and Jordana enter a relationship frivolously and no amount of artful carefree montage, colored fade-outs, and onscreen chapter titles can get us to take them seriously. Not that we're supposed to take them entirely seriously, this being a comedy. But in no way are that and the more outlandish mystic infidelity plot played purely for laughs. The humor comes from a distance, adults being amused by recalling the roller coaster emotions of adolescence. That adolescence just happens to be set in 1980s Wales, which makes for some challenging accents (and a wildly unnecessary in-character opening note), but the experience is a universal one, in spite of the narrator's unique voice.

Stiller's name, an unusual angle on any film but especially this one, did not do much in the way of exciting U.S. audiences. Submarine grossed less than half a million dollars in limited theatrical release last summer. The film caught on a little more back in the UK, grossing $2.3 M in spring 2011. But despite very high critical marks, the film was no commercial success. The film would be nominated for a number of awards in Britain (and win a few), but none here.

Last fall, Weinstein home video partner Anchor Bay brought Submarine to DVD and Blu-ray.

Submarine DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.98 (Reduced from $29.98)
Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available on Blu-ray ($39.99 SRP $19.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video


The DVD's 1.85:1 anamorphic picture and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound present no huge concerns. Visually, the film is imaginative and varied. Aurally, it's basic, consistent, and avoids playing up the period setting. Anchor Bay's presentation is clean but a bit pale. Busier scenes do present some slight compression artifacts.

Graham Purvis (Paddy Considine) talks colors, with lighting to match, in this extended scene. You may recognize screenwriter/director Richard Ayoade as Moss from "The IT Crowd." Oliver Tate strikes a sexy pose on his bed and the DVD's main menu montage.


Submarine is joined by just two bonus features.

First up comes a collection of nine deleted & extended scenes (12:52), presented in letterboxed 4:3. They give us a lot more Graham T. Purvis on stage,
which reinforces Paddy Considine's standing as the English Sam Rockwell.

The other inclusion, "The Making of Submarine" (10:57), is an ordinary featurette, supplying interviews with cast and crew discussing one another and their parts and a bit of behind-the-scenes footage. This brisk piece is presented in 16:9 widescreen, but suffers from a choppy frame rate.

The disc opens with trailers for Dirty Girl and Blue Valentine. Submarine's own trailer is sadly absent, appearing only on Weinstein/Anchor Bay DVDs that do not in fact hold Submarine.

The main menu plays some of the film's most visually striking clips not to music, but sound effects. The uncut eco-friendly keepcase is topped by an ordinary redundant cardboard slipcover.

Oliver (Craig Roberts) and Jordana (Yasmin Paige) hold hands (and a nose) in a walk outside their school. Lloyd (Noah Taylor) musters what little emotion he can as his wife (Sally Hawkins) opens one of his Christmas gifts for her.


Submarine is strange and frantic, but not without some quirky charm. Those with a soft spot for offbeat coming-of-age stories and British comedy ought to give this a look. The DVD is lean but fine and it has already been reduced to what was once considered bargain bin pricing.

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Submarine Songs List: Alex Turner - "Stuck on the Puzzle (Intro)", Alex Turner - "Hiding Tonight", Alex Turner - "Glass in the Park", Alex Turner - "It's Hard to Get Around the Wind", Alex Turner - "Piledriver Waltz", Alex Turner - "Stuck on the Puzzle", "Power of Science", "Lux Aeterna", "Luminosity"

Buy Submarine's Soundtrack from Amazon.com: CD MP3 Download Vinyl

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Reviewed May 7, 2012.

Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 The Weinstein Company, Film4, UK Film Council, Optiumum Releasing, Protagonist Pictures, Warp Films, Red Hour Films,
and The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.