Review by Michael Jacobson
Miguel Ferrer, Mos Def, John Livingston, John Slattery
Director: Daniel Pyne
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: July 18, 2000
Where’s Marlowe? is
a hip, fresh, and fast comedy that takes the so-called “mockumentary” a step
further, by taking us into the filmmaking process itself.
In other words, as one of the movie makers muses, it becomes a
documentary about two guys making a documentary about a private detective.
So, in addition to a Spinal Tap feel,
the picture also derives its humor by kidding the “film within a film” style
that Truffaut made famous in Day For
Night. I’d never even heard
of this film before it showed up at my door, but I found it a funny, original
surprise that kept me smiling from start to finish.
The opening moments made me laugh and laugh hard…and come
to think of it, there weren’t any jokes!
We get a brief look at documentarians AJ (Livingston) and Wilt’s (Def)
latest opus, a black and white picture about…well, water.
Where it comes from. Where
it goes. How we get it. (“Around
here, we just turn on a tap,” a character later offers).
The humor is in the spoofing of the documentary film, and just how
pretentious the filmmakers can be. We
watch shot after shot of water to the tune of bombastic, swelling classical
music. We also see the lukewarm
reception from the audience. Later
in the movie, the duo meets a young woman who was there for the film, but missed
it because she was…ah, otherwise engaged.
For their next project, they decide to make a film about
the private investigation team of Boone (Ferrer) and Murphy (Slattery).
Boone is a dry, straight laced PI that’s more than willing to be the
subject of a movie. Murphy is less enthusiastic, always screaming for the camera
to be turned off. In one
particularly good scene, we look down on the two men from a strange, out of the
way angle while Boone promises Murphy that the guys aren’t going to film him
anymore…yet, here we are watching the footage.
That’s one of the better running gags in the film; another involves how
each person reacts for the first time when they realize they’re being filmed.
Making a documentary is always a gamble.
You can spend weeks or months of guerilla filmmaking, never knowing how
or when the “story” might end, and when it’s all finished, be left with
nothing worth putting on a screen. At
first, it seems our heroes have gotten themselves into exactly that kind of
situation. The PI firm is broke, and cases are so few and far between
that Boone actually accepts a job to find out which neighborhood dog is
relieving himself on a guy’s lawn (“Canine malfeasance,” he calls it).
A big break comes in the form of a beeper salesman who
hires Boone to find out with whom his wife is having an affair.
Boone investigates the “alleged tramp”, and seems to strike
gold…until it turns out the guilty party is his own partner.
After a blow up, Murphy leaves, and Boone sadly confesses that this may
be the end of the firm. He can’t
go on with no money and no help.
Thus, the dilemma: do
the filmmakers pitch in and help out? If they do, they’ve violated the sacred code of the
documentary, which is not to get involved with or influence their subjects.
But if they don’t, the project is scrapped, and their work and money
have been wasted. On the other
hand…why not change the subject matter? The
film could, in fact, be a documentary about two documentarians who become
private eyes, right? This kind of
reasoning and logic plays a big part in the overall film’s comedy.
From now on, we are following the guys on the job with Boone, as well as
in their little room putting their film together.
And by the time you’ve gotten a handle on the comic
premise, the adultery scenario blows up into a full blown murder mystery, with
our intrepid movie makers suddenly in over their heads, but having gone too far
to back out. And the lines of
symmetry in their own project become equally confused, especially when Boone
quits at one point, leaving them to investigate the murder by themselves (“Why
are we following the wife?” “We
don’t know where anyone else is.”), until Boone returns and decides to take
over the filming. It sounds
complicated, but trust me, it all plays out well.
By the time it’s over, you realize you’ve watched an
ambitious film, one that wasn’t afraid to try and cover a variety of cinematic
subjects and formats under one blanket, but managed to keep on top of it all and
remain a funny, original, and enjoyable ride from beginning to end…I
especially loved the final note, kidding one of the most familiar clichés of
This is a mostly good anamorphic offering from Paramount,
with no major complaints. I’m
guessing there wasn’t a big budget for cinematography for this project, but
overall, the look is quite good, with some minor inconsistencies from shot to
shot. Generally speaking, sunlit
outdoor shots are beautifully rendered, with good sharpness and detail and
natural, well contained coloring. Indoor
shots vary a little bit, and occasionally look a bit softer with a touch of
bleeding here and there, but nothing horrendous, or even distracting,
really…just noticeable. I’m
guessing that has more to do with the filming than with the DVD transfer. Consider the mockumentary premise, the minor inconsistencies
actually seem to help the overall effect of the picture.
This is a straightforward 5.1 mix…perfectly fine, but
unremarkable. Most of the action is
front centered, as you might expect given the nature of the film.
The rear channels are accessed sparsely, and mostly only for background
noises and such, and the .1 channel hardly comes into play at all.
The movie is mostly dialogue oriented, and as such, there are no
complaints as far as clarity or distortion, and most of it plays very nicely
across the range of the front stage.
Only a trailer.