Movie - 2001, PG, 86 minutes, Disney; IMDb entry
Genre - Comedy, Family
Cast - Alex D. Linz, Larry Miller, Jamie Kennedy, Zena Grey, Josh Peck, Nora Dunn, Robert Carradine, Clifton Davis, Noel Fisher, Orlando Brown
Director - Tim Hill
DVD - 1.33:1 pan & scan, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish), subtitles - English; single-sided, dual-layered disc; $29.99 SRP, Released 6/18/02

Movie - Max Keeble's Big Move came and left theaters last fall with very little fanfare. Unfortunately, when it finally came to DVD this past June, it was declared a "limited adult interest" title by Disney, resulting in a Fullscreen-only DVD. Like Snow Dogs, the other new theatrical film that was only released on DVD in Pan & Scan, Max Keeble wasn't properly marketed. Unlike Snow Dogs, Max Keeble didn't seem to be marketed much at all.

Max Keeble's Big Move sounds like a Disney Channel original movie, and it pretty much plays like one. In fact, the cast is primarily made up of faces you'll recognize from television (former SNL cast member Nora Dunn and "Lizzie McGuire" dad Robert Carradine play Max's parents). Nevertheless, there are some good Disney Channel television movies, and while Max Keeble does seem a little meager for big-screen release, I liked the film nonetheless. Max Keeble (Alex D. Linz) is beginning his middle school career, and he wants to make an impression with his "phattitude." Then just into the new school year, Max's parents tell him the news: they're moving. At first, Max is upset at having to leave all his friends and his school behind, but then he sees the potential of the move: no repercussions.

It's not a particularly good film, but unlike Snow Dogs, Max Keeble doesn't pretend to be a particularly good film. The tongue-in-cheek tone allows the film to be more than a little silly and dumb, and yet not irritate the viewer. Those expecting anything other than a silly comedy may very likely be disappointed. But if you know what you're about to watch, you'll take quite a bit of enjoyment. The movie seems almost reminiscent of some of the simple and inoffensive comedies from the 1980s, with its use of cliched characters. (That's a compliment.) The young cast has charisma, and even if some gags don't work, and you won't gain much from watching the movie, it's an entertaining little movie, and I'll take it over Snow Dogs any day of the week. Plus, it's got Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins) in a cameo!

Video - While Disney is probably right in thinking that not too many adults will be interested in this film, they are wrong (very, very wrong!) in thinking that Max Keeble's Big Move did not deserve a Widescreen DVD release. Disney's "Kids don't like widescreen" line of thinking is quite off-the-mark, but since so few people saw the film in theaters and very few were excited about the DVD release, the Pan & Scan-only DVD caught little notice and little dissension. Those of you who have went ahead and bought a 16 x 9 television set must be really encouraged to buy this DVD, since Disney has taken the 1.85:1 widescreen presentation and chopped off the sides. This results in gray bars on the sides of the screen, where picture SHOULD be when viewing on a widescreen television. Doesn't seem like a wise business decision to completely ignore a market of the DVD purchasing public, but Disney not only ignored people with 16 x 9 television sets, they ignored fans of the movie (or potential fans) who would have bought the DVD were it in its widescreen ratio. The DVD format was founded upon providing films in their original aspect ratio, with the best possible video and audio quality for home viewing.

In addition to being presented in the wrong ratio, Max Keeble's Big Move's video transfer is quite disappointing for other reasons. The movie never looks as sharp as it should, the colors seem to bleed, and in general the video transfer lacks the depth that a movie that was in theaters less than a year ago should possess. The movie looks decent, but it should look quite a bit better than decent, being so new. Then again, if Disney couldn't even present the film in its original ratio, they probably didn't care much about video quality. Interestingly, the transfer is THX-Certified, but then I suppose that doesn't mean very much in terms of quality.

Audio - There is less to complain about the audio. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is adequate. The film's alternative rock soundtrack makes good use of the soundfield, and the dialogue and sound effects all come across loud and clear. There are also French and Spanish tracks included.

Extras - There is a modest amount of supplements. Foremost is an Audio Commentary with actors Alex D. Linz, Larry Miller (who is rather funny in his performance as school principal), Jamie Kennedy, director Tim Hill, and producer Mike Karz. The DVD refers to this commentary as "Five on the Film," as in five people discussing, well I'm sure you get it. Even if the commentary is mostly self-congratulatory, offering recognition of the various contributors to the film, you do get the sense that these five had a lot of fun working on the film, and also had a lot of fun recording the commentary.

"Alex to the Max" is an 8-minute featurette in which tween Alex D. Linz talks about how being an actor isn't so easy. Take it from him, he is still getting lead roles after "Home Alone 3"! Then there is "Max's Missing Scenes", a section of 12 deleted scenes which (to add insult to injury) are all presented letterboxed in the original widescreen ratio. They run 14 minutes in length, and can be accessed individually by name or you can watch them all by selecting "Play All." It seems that there are even more deleted and alternate scenes which are not included here, from what is discussed in the commentary and recalling a line from the trailer which is not included anywhere here. Speaking of trailers, the most basic of extras is not present here. Interesting, since the trailer for the DVD/video release seems to be on every Disney DVD except THIS. There ARE Sneak Peeks for 10 other titles: 8 DVD releases, 1 theatrical release, and 1 TV show. The menus (4 x 3) are animated (with music from the film) and are spritely enough.

Finally, there are two games. "Max's Halls of Knowledge & Stuff" is a 1st person, three-dimensional (no, not the 3D glasses kind!) trivia maze game in which you try not to go crazy from roaming the indistinguishable halls of the school. You must collect five items by answering trivia questions and not running into the baddies. The other game--"Max's Ultimate Foodfight"--is a DVD-ROM extra. This one is actually some fun if you can stand the repetitive sound bytes from the movie.

Closing Thoughts - As a film, Max Keeble's Big Move is a fairly enjoyable lightweight silly comedy. The DVD has some decent extras, but it is very disappointing that Disney opted not to include the film in its original widescreen ratio either on the same disc using two sides or as a separate release. A part of me feels that if you like the movie, you'd be better off waiting for a widescreen DVD. But another part of me suspects that this film isn't posting the type of sales numbers to garner another DVD release. Of course, the sales are adversely affected by the lack of a widescreen edition, but Disney is likely to interpret the results differently. That being said, if you're unsure of the movie, give it a rental first or if you really like the movie, you can buy it cheap from second-hand sellers and that way, you aren't financially supporting Disney's decisions to only offer modified versions of certain films.

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