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DVD REVIEW

Kid Stays in the Picture, The  (2003)

 

Starring: Robert Evans, Ali McGraw

Directors: Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein

Rating: R

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Release Date: August 19, 2003
Review posted: September 5, 2003

Spoilers: Minor

 

Reviewed by Dennis Landmann

 

"There are three sides to every story. My side, your side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each one differently." - Robert Evans

 

Synopsis

 

 

Robert Evans was the first actor to ever run a major Hollywood studio. In a decade he took it from worst to first. Voted the world's most eligible bachelor, he was quintessential Hollywood royalty. In 1979, he had $11 million. With one mistake he spiraled south from legend to leper. In 1989, his worth was $37. Did he come back? Like a phoenix. His saga should inspire the most cynical. To quote Evans, "All my life I've lived on the edge and many times it came back to bite me. Was it worth it? You bet your ass it was." His outrageous story proves that, at times, fact is far stranger than fiction.

 

Critique

 

The Kid Stays in the Picture is one hell of a film/documentary. All the pieces, such as photographs, stories, music, narration, and archive footage, blend in perfectly. Let’s discuss each of those aspects in more detail. This film uses a new technology that makes a photograph appear as a moving image giving it a 3-D look. Some photographs even get color treatment. For example, there is a picture of Evans in a swimming pool and he clear stands out from the background. In another he smokes a cigar and the smoke is rising. The technology is not new per se as the photographs look to be enhanced by special effects, but certainly it’s a new way to make a documentary a much more visual experience. Directors Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein rely heavily on photographs and the 3-D like presentation allows them to include as many of them as needed without looking repetitive.

 

Moreover, The Kid Stays in the Picture includes many great stories from the 60s and 70s. There is Evans’ turn as an actor in a big production that didn’t want him, but that film’s producer exclaimed, “The kid stays in the picture.” Hence the title, which is damn cool. Moving forward a couple of years, Evans runs Paramount, and as the studio considers closing down at one point he puts together a film that changes the mind of executives. After all, during his reign Paramount released Love Story and Godfather, two big hits. After leaving the studio he becomes a producer, cranking out films like Chinatown, Marathon Man, and Popeye (read my review), among others. No doubt The Kid Stays in the Picture doesn’t miss a thing. It’s a comprehensive look at Evans’ career in Hollywood, as well as spending time recounting his marriage to actress Ali McGraw, who would later leave him for Steve McQueen—a mistake Evans still regrets to this day.

 

The Kid Stays in the Picture features a narration by Evans where he portrays himself and other characters (friends, producers), such as acting out phone conversations and speaking in accent, too. This soundtrack is taken directly from the recording of the audio-book version of his autobiography, and it’s a terrific narration. The Kid Stays in the Picture also features a terrific score by Mychael Danna, as well as a few very cool songs during the montages. The two directors, Morgen and Burstein, start off the film in an interesting manner, showing a beautiful house from the outside and inside, focusing specific areas such as the grand living room. As the film draws to its conclusion, the house shows up again and we see Evans sitting inside a dark room. The only slight flaw of the film is summing up Evans’ last ten years as a producer, films that include The Saint and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (read my review), in only a matter of one or two minutes. A sense of closure is missing somewhat, but it’s not a strike against the film. For overall The Kid Stays in the Picture is a terrific film/documentary.

 

The Video

 

Warner Bros. presents The Kid Stays in the Picture in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Most of the stock footage looks scratchy and contains softness, but that’s reasonable. As for the rest of the picture, sharpness and shadow detail is great. Images are crisp and well-defined. Also, colors are mostly well-saturated and vivid. The photographs, some of which have been digitally enhanced, take on motion and appear a bit dynamic, which is a cool effect. Compression artifacts or pixelation does not occur. There’s an instance or two of edge enhancement present, and a few other minor issues, but despite those flaws the video quality is pretty darn good.

 

The Audio

 

Warner Bros. presents The Kid Stays in the Picture in English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. This is a pretty nice transfer, and the soundtrack is evidently much more active than those of any other documentary. Surrounds go to work when the occasional sound effects come around, and a cool mix of songs creates a nice, smooth atmosphere for this presentation. Dialog remains clear, and Evans’ narration is crisp and reproduced nicely across the front channels. Also, Jeff Danna’s score is effective; at times it is quite vibrant. This is certainly a respectable soundtrack presentation considering you’re watching a documentary.

 

The Extras

 

The special features are divided into two sections. The first one is The Truth According to Bob. Click it and find two extras. One, the entire short film, aptly titled The Film That Saved Paramount, directed by Mike Nicholas, that Evans created the film for Paramount executives to try and convince them to keep the studio in business. Below that is The Kid Speaks, which takes you to a new menu where you will find several extras. Among them is On the Red Carpet, a brief, ad-libbed interview with Evans. Up Close with the Kid (5:10) is a Nightline Up Close interview excerpt. Moving on, The Spirit of Life Award (15:10) is quite moving, not to mention inspirational. Larry King presents Evans with the award. Lastly, the 2003 David O. Selznick Lifetime Achievement Award (12:30) is a bit more lighthearted and entertaining. Dustin Hoffman presents the award, but not before giving an eight-minute speech of his own that includes a recollection from a meeting with Evans (he also mimics Evans).

 

In The Truth According to Others, a Commentary by Directors Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein is offered. Morgen starts off the first half, and during the last half discusses the film with Burstein. Both keep this track conversational and fairly educational as well. Morgen spills his views on documentary filmmaking, but also shares things about the making of The Kid Stays in the Picture. Both filmmakers have generally interesting things to say, such as revealing the sources of stock footage shown in the film and the technique employed to make some of the photographs look 3-D and more visual.

 

Next up is Showgirls on Evans, a brief segment from an older talk show. Then there’s a pretty damn funny Gag reel that lasts a little more than 8 minutes and features Dustin Hoffman (and Roy Scheider) on the Marathon Man set making impressions of Evans’ speech style; terrific fun. Lastly, On the Red Carpet takes you to a menu offering brief interviews with 15 prominent people talking about Evans, including Larry King, Jack Valenti, Peter Bart, Craig Kilborn, Brett Ratner, and Matthew McConaughey. Rounding out the extras is an Interview segment about Evans with former showgirls, Rounding out the extras is the film’s Theatrical Trailer and biographies for Evans and Burstein.

 

You can select to view the film with optional English subtitles. The DVD’s menus are not animated. The 93-minute feature is organized into twenty-two chapters.

 

Overall

 

The Kid Stays in the Picture is a terrific film. It’s insightful, funny, and dramatic. Photographs look incredibly visual and the film score is great. Video/audio quality is very good, and the great roster of special features is great to have. This DVD comes highly recommended.

 

RATINGS SUMMARY

 

THE MOVIE 8
THE VIDEO 8

THE AUDIO

7

THE EXTRAS

8

OVERALL (not an average)

8

 

VERDICT: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 


 

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