If you’ve never heard of Pretty Bird you’re not alone—despite the lead actors all being well-known, the 2008 film kind of remained stuck in limbo, not going anywhere other than the Sundance festival. It’s finally seeing a DVD release courtesy of Paramount, although you’ll get nothing on the release other than the film itself so if you’re like the…handful of people who saw it and wondered what the hell this film was about or why it ended the way it did, then tough luck. In fact, it’s just a ton of tough luck because researching this film online brings up very little as well, so chances are you’re going to be renting this film based solely on the talent involved…which is a bad choice.
Billy Crudup, Paul Giamatti, Kristen Wiig and David Hornsby star in this “darkly amusing look at the American Dream – and the personal shortcomings we’ll gladly endure (or ignore) in the pursuit of said dream” (Scott Weinberg, CINEMATICAL). When three eccentric would-be inventors – a smooth-talking entrepreneur (Crudup), a tender-hearted mattress tore owner (Hornsyby), and a pessimistic rocket scientist (Giamatti) – get together to launch a rocket belt company, they put everything on the line in a crazy quest to reach the greatest heights of success. Filled with high-flying hilarity and surprises, Pretty Bird sours into new realms of off-beat comedy. Writen and directed by Paul Schneider (Lars and the Real Girl), this Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize nominee is based on an outlandish true story. Now, that’s rocket science!
For some reason all the press materials for this film denote it as being based on a “true story.” While the rocket belt is real and there are those who continue to try and build it, it is not actually a true story. The film even says at the eighteen second mark that “Though inspired by real events, this story is a work of fiction.” This immediately puts the film in the “strange” category, because the only reason to tell such a weird story is if it was based partly in reality. As is it’s about as off-putting as Schneider’s aforementioned Lars and the Real Girl, which had an equally kooky story and set of endearing performances by its cast.
Pretty Bird is, as far as I can tell, about nothing of much significant. Our main character, played by Crudup, strolls into town, sucks his best friends business dry, dates his friends crush and then hires a rocket scientist to build a belt which then disappears. Crudup is definitely entertaining to watch, but you never really get any idea of what his character is about—he’s incredibly eccentric and where his true loyalties lie you really have no idea. At first I thought that was a cool story tactic, but they took that bit of his character to the very end of the film so we still don’t really know what the hell went on with it.
The other highlight of the film was Giamatti’s easily-set-off character who, if it weren’t for him, this movie could have been rated PG. The amount of f-bombs he drops is genuinely hilarious and the sex scene with his wife is as random as it is awkward to watch. It’s definitely a film that will only be remembered for its quirky performances and little else…especially since the story is just completely bananas. I mean it’s not a terrible idea for a company, but what’s the point? There seems to be no real third act to the film, as it just gets into the second act, floors it and drives off of a cliff. Giamatti’s character continues to get darker as the film goes on, but he, too, gets no resolution in the end. It almost seems as if they ran out of time to complete the film and just cut off the epilogue.
At least with terrible films you know that it’s bad, but with films that feel incomplete you just wonder if any ending at all, no matter how terrible, could have made it better than the neutered resolution we end up with here. Performances were definitely entertaining, but there’s really nothing worth investing your time with when it comes to this film because there’s no resolution. You put ninety minutes of your time into it only for it to run off with it in the end, leaving you with no sense of satisfaction. Which is probably exactly how all the characters in the film feel as well, now that I think about it…could that have been the whole purpose? I’ve no idea. But the fact I had to go nearly two pages into a review for it to discover that clearly shows that there were still some issues with the story.
Overall you can Skip this film. Whatever thinking it may make you do is not worth the ultimately disappointing outcome.
Paramount pushes out Pretty Bird on DVD in a standard Eco Amaray DVD case. Disc art is the usual grey splash that is devoid of color and there are zero inserts include; menus are simple and easy to navigate and the video is what you’d expect from a modern production, offering up solid colors and detail throughout. The film gets a DD5.1 mix that is fairly underutilized, although the films enjoyable soundtrack makes it worthwhile occasionally.
There are zero extras on this release…absolutely nothing. If you hoped for a tiny featurette to explain what the hell you just watched, then sorry. You get nothing.
Pretty Bird is now available on DVD.