Review by Gordon Justesen
Ashton Kutcher, Al Shearer, Dax Shepard, Jason Goldberg
Audio: Dolby Surround
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Length: 157 Minutes
Release Date: January 20, 2004
just got Punk'd!"
Playing a huge
prank on anyone can be funny on its own, but when the targets happen to be some
of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, it's twice as engaging and
riotous. Having said that, I think Ashton Kutcher should be given a lifetime
achievement award for executing this action in pure genius style. His hidden
camera show, Punk'd, not only became
one of MTV's more popular and for that matter, watch-worthy shows, but marked a
pure return to form of the hidden camera show. And by going after some big name
marks, the laughs seem to increase with each episode.
Kutcher, of course,
is the ever so likeable co-star of television's That 70s Show, as well as the feature comedies, Dude
Where's My Car and Just Married.
But it's with Punk'd that Kutcher
displays his true self; that of an ultra-cool smart ass goofball with a knack
for pulling off huge elaborate pranks. MTV thankfully gave Kutcher the
opportunity to put this work to good use by going after such big names in the
mediums of music, television, and film.
The pure pleasure
of watching a show like this isn't so much the fact that you're seeing big named
celebrities being played for fools, but the notion that they react just like you
and I would if something out of the ordinary is happening before their eyes. If
anything, these pranks demonstrate that celebrities, even though they may live
under the most extraordinary circumstances, are people first, and react just
like everybody else under such circumstances.
Consider the case
of Justin Timberlake, one of Ashton's targets in the pilot episode, and possibly
the most high profile celebrity of the crop. Timberlake arrives at his new
luxurious home, only to find it seized by the government, as agents representing
a tax agency inform him that he owes back taxes adding up to $900,000.
Timberlake's reaction is of astonishment and disbelief, as he sees all of his
prized possessions being removed from the area to be auctioned off. When
Timberlake comes close to the brink of exploding in tears, Ashton wanders onto
the scene asking him, "Are you guys moving, or what?" A truly
And Kutcher's list
of targets doesn't end there. Among the other victims of his elaborate pranks
include actress Eliza Dushku being set up as a thief in a clothing store (remind
you of another actress?), Seth Green being pressured by cops raiding a room of
illegal gambling activity into giving up the name of the game-runner, Stephen
Dorff denying that he owes a bar tab of $8,000 to a restraunt manager, Justin
Timberlake returning to pull a punk of his own (this time on Kelly Osbourne) and
three of the NFL's toughest players being put through interview hell. There's
even a bit where Britney Spears attempts to pull a punk of her own on the punk
master, which has to be seen to be believed.
In short, Punk'd
is one of the few reality based TV shows that merits any viewing at all. Ashton
Kutcher's sharp wit help elevate that appeal of the show even further, as he
frequently pops up with some funny interludes in between the bits. Kutcher,
after only two seasons, recently announced that he was pulling the plug on the
show, which has me wondering if we're being punk'd. We'll have to wait and see.
Since a good
portion of the show's footage is viewed through hidden cameras, the video
playback on DVD can only do so much. The picture quality is actually fine given
the limitations of the video source. The night sequences, occasionally grainy
but not at an excruciating, fair less better than ones shot in daytime or in
heavy light. Overall, I maybe giving it less credit than I should be, but as
mentioned earlier, only so much can be done with a limited source.
I was quite
surprised of the quality received with that of a 2.0 track, especially for a
package designed specifically for TV. The sound quality does offer some
background music and occasional sound effect cuts to enhance the flow of the
shows. Spoken words are actually not that badly delivered, since they are
basically picked up by hidden video playback. Very nicely done.
Paramount applies a
good touch of extras to this double disc set. Featured on the discs is running
commentary by Ashton Kutcher, co creator Jason Goldberg, and co-punk-er Dax
Shepard. Also included are deleted scenes, two never before seen segments, and
some nice interactive menus hosted by Mr. Kutcher himself.