DVD Review HTF Review: Bigger Than The Sky

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jason Perez, Jun 29, 2005.

  1. Jason Perez

    Jason Perez Second Unit

    Jul 6, 2003
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    Bigger Than The Sky

    Studio: MGM
    Year: 2005
    Rated: PG-13
    Running Time: 106 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16x9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: None
    Audio: English – Dolby Digital 5.1

    Release Date:
    June 7th, 2005

    Although it may appear to be a romantic comedy, or a story about a lonely, broken character trying to find his groove again, Bigger Than The Sky, directed by Al Corley, and penned by Rodney Vaccaro, is really just an emphatic love letter to the theater, sealed with a kiss. Though not what the marketing suggests the film will be like, this would have been fine, especially since John Corbett, Amy Smart, and Sean Astin turn in winning performances, but the film’s main character is simply not all that interesting or easy to care about, which is ultimately what keeps the film from drawing the viewer in and taking them anywhere important.

    Indeed, as the story begins, we meet this main character, a sullen, almost lifeless art designer named Peter Rooker (Marcus Thomas), who has recently been dumped by his girlfriend. Now the break-up supposedly takes a heavy toll on Peter, but although several scenes of him doing things alone are incorporated to emphasize his dire emotional state, I really do not think Al Corley did a good enough job of driving this point home. In any event, to keep his mind off of the failed relationship, Rooker auditions for a role in the Portland Community Theater’s production of “Cyrano de Bergerac” on a whim, looking to add some excitement to his dreary life.

    Amazingly, although the would-be thespian is absolutely horrible during his audition, he comes away with the lead role, despite the fact that he had no previous acting experience. Apparently, director Edwina Winters (Claire Higgins) was impressed by the honesty Peter exhibited during his audition, and thinks he has it in him to deliver a truly unique performance as Cyrano.

    In a concerted effort to give this film a fair shake, I tried very hard to ignore the utter implausibility of Ms. Winters’ action, but this proved impossible. The fact of the matter is that her company already had talented, experienced performers in it, any of which would have been a much more logical choice for the production’s lead role than Peter. Among the talent involved in this local production that figures prominently in this story are Michael Degan (John Corbett), and Grace Hargrove (Amy Smart), who play Christian and Roxanne, respectively. Loyal to their craft, these two are among the many vibrant, funny personalities that Peter meets, and before long, calls his new friends.

    Taking a step backwards though, as you might expect, Peter has so little else going on in his life, he agrees to take on the challenge of playing Cyrano, despite the likelihood he will fail. Of course, no one realizes just how much Peter has to learn more than he does, so he dives into the experience headfirst, and soon finds almost all of his time occupied by rehearsals and interesting adventures with his new buddies.

    As time passes, Peter begins to feel a real sense of purpose and pride from being part of the production, and it becomes so important to him that other aspects of his life suffer – particularly his work! Ultimately, things deteriorate to the point that his boss gives Peter a choice – quit the play or risk losing the promotion to art director that he has been nominated for! After mulling it over, in a grand moment of both bravery and stupidity, Peter decides to not only forget about the promotion, but to quit his job because it is interfering with his participation in the play.

    Unfortunately, when good old Pete stops at the theater later on, he makes a startling and disappointing discovery – Ms. Winters has been harboring concerns about Peter’s ability to handle the role she had originally selected him for. Since the show must go on, she has also secretly been working with another actor, the self-absorbed Ken Zorbell (Sean Astin), who is preparing to swoop in and steal Peter’s lead role, should an opportunity arise for him to do so!

    Another thing that has Edwina concerned is the development of a real-life love triangle that mimics the one in “Cyrano de Bergerac”. More specifically, Peter’s increasing interest in Grace, despite the fact she also has a loose attachment to Michael is worrisome, as it seems that Peter may be more interested in winning Grace’s heart than playing Cyrano. As a result of these issues, Ms. Winters questions whether her decision to cast Peter in the lead role of her play was not misguided. The question is, will Peter find himself spurned yet again, or can he somehow rise to the occasion and deliver as Cyrano de Bergerac, securing both his colleagues’ respect and Grace’s love in the process?

    Personally, I think I would have been much more interested in the answer to this key question if the role of Peter Rooker had been written/developed better. Another problem is that Marcus Thomas’ performance is “too good” in this film, particularly during its latter stages. What I mean is that the man is supposed to be both a horrible actor and an extremely bland personality, and yet in what seems like no time at all, he makes amazing strides in each area, which undermines the story’s credibility in the process.

    Getting back to the writing, the character also becomes even less interesting than he is initially as his emotions begin to bubble to the surface, which I really would not have thought possible (you would think it would be just the opposite!). In simpler terms, the Peter Rooker character is just sort of there, and not made particularly likable or sympathetic over the course of the film by this script. Again, this really is too bad, because, it offsets the sound supporting performances by Sean Astin, John Corbett, Patty Duke, Claire Higgings, and Amy Smart. It also causes the film to trudge along for what seems like far longer than its running time, until Peter learns the neatly packaged life lessons that you can see coming from within the film’s first half-hour.

    Presented in its original aspect ratio (1.85:1), MGM’s anamorphic widescreen image transfer for Bigger Than The Sky contains some flaws, but is generally quite pleasing, in terms of its overall visual quality. The good news is that colors are nicely saturated and reproduced without any noticeable errors. Similarly, the film’s black level remains above average throughout, so shadow detail is always acceptable, and the image often exhibits a satisfying sense of depth and texture as well.

    Moving on to the less satisfactory aspects of the transfer, I found the image to be noticeably “soft”, with fine detail obscured to some degree in many shots, especially those not involving close-ups. The print was also not quite as clean as recent productions (even low-budget ones) tend to be, with a moderate amount of specks and minor print flaws popping up here and there. The other “problems” deserving a mention were the noticeable halos at the edges of light/dark transitions created by the application of edge enhancement, and the occasional appearance of digital artifacts, including aliasing and pixelization.

    To be honest, none of these flaws is enough to make the film un-watchable, but the combination of them does add up to a bit of disappointment. On the whole, this transfer reproduces Bigger Than The Sky’s sights respectably, but there are enough minor issues with it to cause discriminating viewers a few headaches.

    Bigger Than The Sky is a fairly typical low-budget comedy/drama, and the Dolby Digital 5.1-channel reproduction of its soundtrack reflects this. More to the point, the audio information resides almost exclusively in the front and center channels, with the rears used only to emit a faint ambience, and the LFE channel used hardly at all.

    As you have probably gathered, the story is mostly dialogue-driven, and the actors’ speech has a warm, fluid sound. On the few occasions when it is competing for space in the mix against other sounds or music, every spoken word also rings through clearly. Speaking of music, although fidelity and instrument separation are not exactly magnificent, the music used in the movie is also reproduced solidly.

    All in all, despite being relatively straightforward, the overall presentation of this film’s audio information is certainly serviceable.


    Promotional Materials
    The theatrical trailer for Hotel Rwanda is shown when the disc is first inserted, and cover art for Jeremiah: Season 1, The Miracle Worker, Billie, The Princess Bride: SE, Thelma and Louise, and Rain Man is available under the “More Great MGM Releases” section of the main menu.


    (on a five-point scale)
    Film: [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Video: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Audio: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] star:
    Overall: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    While it may have some appeal to those with a theatrical background, Bigger Than The Sky is a disappointing, cliché-laden film, which is undermined by a poorly written and extremely bland lead character. Some of the supporting sctors’ performances are quite good, particularly those of John Corbett, Amy Smart, and Sean Astin, but the Peter Rooker character simply ruined this film for me.

    Unfortunately, MGM’s DVD treatment of this film is also not without its share of flaws. For one thing, the image quality is not bad, but a number of issues cause it to fall short of MGM’s usual high standards, and there are no supplemental materials on board at all. Indeed, the only area of presentation that can be considered better than average is the soundtrack, which is not stellar, but does suit the source material.

    In looking at the package as a whole, I would have to argue against adding this title to your library, because the film really is unlikely to be viewed repeatedly, and the technical aspects of the disc are only about average. It might warrant a look by those with a love of the theater, but I can’t imagine the average viewer will derive much pleasure from Bigger Than The Sky.

    Stay tuned…
  2. AlanZ

    AlanZ Screenwriter

    Sep 15, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Wow, I couldn't disagree with you more about the film. I didn't feel it was about the theater at all....I felt it was about friendship and overcoming oneself. Strangely enough, I felt connected with the characters from the get-go, and that was a big part of why I enjoyed the film so much.

    As for other areas of his life suffering as a result of his involvement in the play, I felt the opposite. What was truly suffering was Peter's sense of self and enlightenment. At first when his job performance was poor and he was confronted with a disgruntled supervisor, Peter was trying to hold on to it, afraid of the consequences that would follow, yet still drawn to the changes that were taking place inside him as a result of his participation in the community theater. He needed to break free of the job, and when he did so he furthered his confidence in himself. He began to learn to take chances and risks.

    I wasn't bothered by his seemingly instant ability to transform himself into a passable actor in the end. Even in my own life I have found that the letting go of that last remnant of hesitation or reservation I may have had about something and just giving in to something, it transformed me too.

    The great thing about film is that each story means something different to someone else. To me, this film was about embracing life, embracing friendship, and learning to both discover and break down the boundaries we set for ourselves in life.

    I loved this movie!

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