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SCREW LOOSE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Mel Brooks, Ezio Greggio, Julie Condra, Gianfranco Barra
Director:  Ezio Greggio
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio:  Columbia/Tri Star
Features:  4 Trailers, Talent Files
Length:  85 Minutes
Release Date:  September 26, 2000

Film **

Screw Loose is never boring, but only mildly funny with one or two genuine laughs along the way.  It boasts a second pairing between Italian comic Ezio Greggio (who also directed) and American funnyman Mel Brooks.  Greggio made an appearance in Brooksí film Dracula:  Dead and Loving It.  So now, Mel returns the favor by starring in this little diversion of a picture, and his presence is the filmís biggest treat.

Bernardo (Greggio) is the son of a successful but far-too-tense dairy food producer (Barra), who collapses from a heart attack one day while screaming at him.  His dying wish?  To see the American GI who saved his life in World War II many years ago.  That man is Jake Gordon (Brooks), and Bernardo sets off to the States to find him and bring him to his fatherís bedside.  The catch?  Jake is insane, and a long time resident of a California asylum.

Breaking Jake out is only the start of Bernardoís troubles, especially when the eccentric war hero turns out to be a bit more than he can handle.  Heís not really dangerous, but his inability to keep quiet when he most should, along with his passion for living, beauty and ladies and the way he spontaneously bursts into song and dance numbers wreak much havoc along the way.  Thrown into the mix is a beautiful doctor, Barbara (Condra), whose job depends on her ability to catch and return Jake to the asylum, despite Bernardoís desperate attempt to do just one thing right for his father.

Iím not very familiar with Ezio Greggio, who is a popular comic star in his native Italy, but not yet as well known over here as his more outrageous fellow countryman Roberto Benigni.  I liked him a lot in this film.  He plays his comedy with a good mix of enthusiasm and restraint, always trying to maintain a sense of sanity despite the craziness he sinks further and further into.  And Mel Brooks, of course, is a delight, and more than capable of providing the craziness to Greggioís world!  Although he doesnít seem to appear in very many movies that he didnít write and/or direct himself, he does come to this project strictly as an actor for hire, and his energy and comic mania are winning and pleasing.  He doesnít seem to miss a beat at his age, singing and dancing with all the gusto of a young man, but delivering his comedy with the precision and sharpness of a seasoned veteran.

The main problem is the script itself, which is paper thin and more an assembly of jokes and comic situations than a story, and a good bit of it never makes it beyond simple amusement into real laugh territory.  This film is more of a showcase for its two stars than anything else, and these men do as well as could be asked with so little to work with.  But thereís even an inherent problem there:  the movie works best when Greggio and Brooks team up on screen.  They have a good chemistry and a terrific sense of rhythm and timing between them that helps to elevate the material.  But then, partway into the story, Brooks sets out on his own, leaving Greggio either alone or paired with the lady doctor Condra, whoís pretty, but rather bland.  The picture therefore SERIOUSLY loses its footing for a time, until all three are finally reunited.

I am not in least bit sorry I watched this film, and under the right circumstances, Iíd probably do so again.  As I mentioned, itís not boring, and itís certainly pleasant enough for one eveningís entertainment.  But itís not nearly as funny as it should have been, which is a near fatal flaw.  After all, what do we watch comedies for if not to laugh?

Video ****

Granted, Screw Loose isnít the kind of picture that will take home any awards for cinematography or art design, but does that mean CST skimps on the transfer quality?  Never!  And this disc is about all you could ask for from a DVD viewing experience.  For starters, the images are sharp and clear from start to finish, with no softness or lack of detail, even in the few lower lit settings.  Coloring is beautiful and natural throughout, which combines with the sharpness for maximum quality.  Even shots in deeper focus maintain a strict sense of detail and crispness, and indoor and outdoor shots alike render perfectly.  Bleeding is non existent, as are grain, noise, shimmer or any kind of compression artifacts, and the print itself is of first rate quality.  Bravo, Columbia/Tri Star!

Audio ***

This 5.1 surround track is quite good, even if the nature of the film keeps it from being a busy one.  The music by Umbeto Smaila and Silvio Amato is particularly well rendered, with front and back stages harnessed to create a more full and dimensional listening environment.  Apart from that, the rear channels donít operate with much distinction, but generally takes on some of the action from the front speakers to help balance the overall sound.  Dialogue is clear and well recorded, and there are a few livelier moments that bring up the dynamic range some and let the audio spill out a little more into the discreet channels.  The subwoofer is mostly used to add bottom to the score, and it helps to accentuate the music nicely.

Features **

The disc contains trailers for this movie plus Drowning Mona, Bossa Nova and What Planet Are You From?, plus talent files for Messrs. Brooks and Greggio.  I was glad to see the latter, which gave me a chance to familiarize myself a little more with the popular Italian comic star.

Summary:

Screw Loose is far from a waste of time, but it doesnít quite garner the rating that a film with two talented and popular international comic stars should have earned.  Iím guessing fans of either Brooks or Greggio will be pleased enough.  The disc quality is certainly good enough to guarantee that at least a rental is probably worthwhile.