Daddy & Them DVD Review

Cover Art and Menu: 6/10
This cover doesn’t really capture the essence of what this story is all about, or seems to me to be all about. An entire family coming together facing a crisis which pales in comparison to simply facing one another. It’s such a wonderful story, beautifully written and performed. It is truly an ensemble cast and it feels like without any one of these particular characters and the performers who brought them to life, this film would not be as brilliant as it is. The cover makes it look like a romantic farcical flick focusing on two women and one dude. True, they have a couple of amazing women, Laura Dern and Kelly Preston along with Billy Bob Thornton as the dude, but slapping them on the cover kind of dummies down the film, which is a shame.

Extras & Features: 7/10

  • Behind-the-Scenes Special – Woe is me, let me count the ways!! I can’t tell you how psyched up I am after seeing a really good movie, either in the theater or on DVD. When it’s at the theater I just want to talk about it and think about it for hours. When it’s a DVD I want to dig into the extras and find out all the juicy details, behind the scenes and all that good stuff. We finished  the movie and went straight to the “behind-the-scenes” featurette and before I knew it, it was over. It lasted all but about ten minutes and it was not really that interesting, just to add insult to injury. This movie was lowish budget, yes, but come on people give us something more than a cable blurb and pretend it’s a DVD extra.
  • Commentary with Writer/Director Billy Bob Thornton, Co-Producer Bruce Heller and Producer Robert Salerno – Billy Bob Thornton seems to be very serious about the craft and process of making his films but now and then he busts into a funny story about things that happen on the set. From the things he says he has great respect for the people he works with, which tames down a more raucous public perception of him. Being the writer, director, and lead character his comments really fill in any tid bits of information a fan of the movie would be wanting.
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary – A couple of these are just extended versions of scenes with a few seconds cut out here and there to save time. But there is one whole scene that brings a huge resolution to one character’s story in the movie. This whole scene was cut, per the studio apparently. Thornton has a bit of resentment in his voice as he explains many times that the studios cut out “the best stuff”.  It’s obvious that this particular scene should have been left in, but hey, big studio vs. little movie fan..blah
  • The Return of Karl – Karl from Slingblade makes a return appearance in a scene featuring Billy Bob and three cast members from Daddy and Them. It’s a cool scene where Thornton, as Karl comes into the living room of the set we have just seen on Daddy and Them and has a conversation with some of the performers in character. It’s a simple exchange but Thornton is fully Karl with the outfit, make up and the whole bit. Now THAT is a cool extra to put on a DVD!!

Picture & Sound: 9/10
No glitches or problems with the picture quality or the sound. I often expect a problem with movies that have a lot of low sound dialogue ridden scenes. Sometimes the sound is not balanced or mixed well, or whatever you call it and the voices end up being tooooo low while the score dominates, but this DVD played just right with no need to adjust the volume when the quieter scenes came around.

The Movie: 9/10
Do we even know what a dysfunctional family is these days? I think back in the 90’s people had some pretentious definition of a family that was not “healthy” and everybody bought into it. I say no family is fully functional so the group we meet in Daddy & Them may be extreme, but very common.

There is a specific theme that is woven through the movie, but I was drawn to so many amazing details in the story and in the characters it’s hard for me to narrow it down to a central “moral to the story”. There is one more obvious observation that Thornton, as the writer, has hit upon that stands out to me.

It doesn’t fully crystallize until near the end of the film, but it’s hinted at throughout the story. It centers around the realization many of us make at some point that our life is not what we want and we are not the person we want to be. This comes to the surface when a couple of characters, including Thornton’s, discover that their family and their circumstance is almost a prison that keeps them locked away from the life they want.

It sounds too deep and daunting to be a comedy, but the writing is so clever and brave, not to mention the way the performers portray all of the quirky characters, (including Thornton) it all comes together perfectly.

I can guarantee that if you are not into all that self realization stuff, you will be overwhelmingly distracted and entertained by the very funny dialogue and oh-so interesting characters. There are enough lively arguments, petty fights, and strained conversations that fly between the family members to keep even the shallowest of movie watchers occupied.

This is a story punctuated by fantastic writing and perfect performances. With people like Andy Griffith, Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Billy Bob Thornton, John Prine and all the rest, it would be hard to find any flaws. There are scenes with Andy Griffith that are just wonderful. He sits talking with a man in a wheelchair at some point and I was really impressed that after all these decades his acting style and performance was still sharp and spot on.

Laura Dern is absolutely wonderful. I haven’t ever been a huge fan of hers. Not to be offensive or anything I always like seeing her in movies, but this time she jumps off the screen with so much charisma and emotion that I want to go back and re-watch other movies she’s in just so I can appreciate her body of work from a new perspective.

Brenda Blethen, the token English woman in the family is always incredible and this time she is up against a bunch of somewhat basic country American folks who don’t want to see much value in her Psychological observations. She has married into this family who contrast her character so severely it would have been easy to let that dynamic dominate the scenes in a farcical way, but she is so classy and refined as a performer that it’s poignant rather than comical most of the time. When she needs to add that comic element she does it just right. When she is meant to expose more of the underlying emotional tugs of war going on in the other characters it’s just as convincing and vital to the eventual evolution of this family.

I could go on and on about the performances in this movie, but it might get lost on those of you who skip those parts of a review. Just know this, Daddy & Them is one of those movies that if you are a lover of good performances you will be sad to see it end.

The writing is just as impressive as Thornton tosses in every kind of quirk a family of this type can have. From the comical scene of the women of the family watching the men shoot their guns, as if that is a spectator sport, to the stunning gentleness of Laura Dern’s character as she sits in the dark and tells her husband quietly and softly that she likes being awake when everyone else is asleep because nothing can get her or hurt her.

Those moments are, dare I say, touching, but in a good way. There are so many times that the characters expose themselves emotionally to one another either through casual comments or full on confrontations. Two scenes that come to mind are when Uncle Hazel’s accuser comes to the house “to talk to someone” and when the lawyers’ (Curtis and Affleck) marriage comes to an uncomfortable end at a picnic. As you watch you can’t help but think of people you know in real life who are reflected in the story.

That’s what I like most about this movie. It digs deep enough into personal relationships, marriage, father to son, sister to sister, mother to daughter, in-law to spouse’s family, etc., that you will find people you know and relate to the story instantly. On the other hand, it’s really just skimming the surface because the issues that are uncovered are deep rooted and extensive which cannot be resolved in a two hour movie. If you were trying to fix all of the dysfunctions of this or any family it would either be too painful, boring or too long to squeeze into a film at all.

It’s just a great story and wonderful movie, in case you couldn’t tell by my raving on and on..haha Don’t look for slapstick comedy like Waking up in Reno, and don’t think it’s as serious or as dark as Slingblade. Just go into it knowing that in a perfect world this is a movie that should be nominated for so many Academy Awards, but it has slipped through the cracks and gets overlooked for whatever reasons.

Value: 7/10
Ok, this is a lower budget movie. They spent only around 6,000,000 to make it and I suppose that translates into a low DVD budget as a result of limited funds…but come on people! We LOVE to hear more from people like Thornton about what inspires them to write, direct, act, etc. I would have loved to see more behind the scenes, more about how the story was written, and even (being greedy like I am) to see interviews with not only Thornton, but with other cast and crew describing the experience of making this film.

The lack of extras is a really difficult thing for me to resolve when I want to recommend this movie to so many people. I want you to have it on your DVD shelf simply because it’s a kick ass movie and I think it’s a modern day classic. I just can’t say go out and buy it with a clean conscience. For $20.00 I would expect more extras, simple as that.  It’s not a good price for what you get. I would tell everyone from my mom to people I work with to buy this one if only the price were in the $10-$12 range.

Go ahead, comment on how they can’t charge that little of an amount and still make money. Go ahead and tell me I’m being too picky or cheap. Go ahead and let me know that I do not understand the movie biz and how it all works, with that I agree. But they do not know how my checkbook works. If I find something I really really love and it’s reasonable priced, I will buy it. If I love something but it’s too expensive…it stays on the store shelf gathering dust. It’s a good system.

I don’t think my refusal to buy pricey DVD’s will ever have any impact on the movie industry. I just hope I’m not alone in the world when I say that some DVD’s should not be priced solely to reflect how many they plan to press/sell, but also considering the amount of content they include. I pay 60 cents at McDonald’s for a plain hamburger because it’s a tiny little thing that is basically worth 60 cents. I pay $4.00 for a Classic Triple Wendy’s cheeseburger, because it’s a TRIPLE burger. I would like to think that everything can be boiled down to “you get what you pay for”, but when it comes to DVD’s, you might get a fantastic movie like Daddy and Them only to be let down by the lack of content on the DVD and still have to pay the extra cash.

Overall Score 8/10