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(2005) * Pg-13
123 min. Paramount Pictures. Director: Cameron Crowe. Cast: Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, Bruce McGill.

In the last act of Cameron Crowe's not-so-fab fable Elizabethtown, a character plans out a 42-hour-and-11 minute journey accompanied by a 16-CD soundtrack. At 123 minutes packed with 35 song cues, Elizabethtown feels every bit as long and music-saturated as its anticlimactic road-trip.

Orlando Bloom plays bland protagonist Drew Baylor, who all-but destroys a Nike-sized shoe company with one ill-designed shoe. As he prepares his suicide, big-city Drew gets a call to return home to Elizabethtown, Kentucky: his father Mitch has died. On the way, Drew meets a flight attendant named Claire (Kirsten Dunst), who just happens to be a conveniently unattached male fantasy willing to drop everything to serve a man in need. (To be fair, the original cut—which runs somewhere between twelve and eighteen minutes longer—reportedly fleshes out Claire's character a bit.)

At any length, Elizabethtown can't seem very convincing. In a gamble that doesn't pay off, Crowe makes the dead Mitch a mysterious Everydad. According to flashbacks and the briefest of references, Mitch was remote for years (oh, except for the gleaming flashback montage that returns to Drew), a great guy in recent times (while Drew was busy designing shoes), and conveniently everything to everybody. Though unrealistic, the malleable non-character allows for Crowe to whip up any situation or emotional response he likes, whenever he likes.

As such, Elizabethtown is one giant Mitch fan club—all generations, from Mitch's contemporaneous friends, family, and associates (Bruce McGill, Loudon Wainwright, Paula Deen) to Drew's rocker-also-ran cousin (Paul Schneider) absolutely loved Mitch and drop everything to rally around Drew. Why? We're never really sure, except that the small-town "characters" put Drew's indeterminate feelings in relief and allow Crowe to orchestrate "comic" Capracorn.

To cope with their grief, Drew mopes as his mother (Susan Sarandon) turns frenetic. Though it'll look terrific in her AFI clip reel, Sarandon's big scene is a bit of an embarrassment, capped as it is with a grinning, flat-footed tapdance. The head-scratchingly elaborate memorial-service climax serves as prelude to the prolonged road-trip resolution, an equally unrealistic, don't-look-now descent into self-parody.

To excuse the bizarre plot as a fable is also to willfully ignore Elizabethtown's lack of genuine emotional resonance. Whiff! It's a swing and a miss for Crowe. Let's hope the director (who scored with Jerry Maguire) never again attempts a downwardly mobile yuppie dramedy. As Alec Baldwin's shoe magnate points out, "There's a difference between a failure and a fiasco."

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Aspect ratios: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 Surround

Street date: 2/7/2006

Distributor: Paramount Home Video

Paramount's Special Collector's Edition of Elizabethtown seems a bit paltry for the designation "Special Collector's Edition," but it does offer a few enticing extras for Cameron Crowe's loyal fans. "Training Wheels" (2:18) is a musical montage of screen tests and on-set video. "Meet the Crew (some of the many)" (2:36) is a likewise home-grown musical montage, this time introducing the film's behind-the-scenes family (awwww...). Among the more meaty extras, you'll find two extended scenes: "Rusty's Learning to Listen Part 8" (3:35)—the complete, highly amusing children's video seen in the film—and "Hanging with Russell in Memphis" (7:28), which is actually a montage of behind-the-scenes video footage and excised raw takes from Drew's Memphis stop.

An extensive gallery of photos by Neal Preston is subdivided into ten sections: Behind the Scenes; Mercury; Drew Baylor; Mitch, Holly, Drew and Heather: The Baylors; Claire Colburn; Drew & Claire; Kentucky; The Memorial; The Funeral; and The Road Trip. Rounding out the disc are two Theatrical Trailers for Elizabethtown—"Bad Day" (2:32) and "Drew" (2:57)—and previews for Ferris Bueller's Day Off—The Bueller...Bueller...Edition, Charmed: The Complete Third Season, Yours, Mine & Ours, and Aeon Flux.
Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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