King of California
R2 - United Kingdom - Revolver Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum & Samuel Scott (21st May 2013).
The Film

Sixteen-year-old Miranda (Evan Rachel Wood) lives by herself in a big house in the rolling green hills of southern California. Her mother split many years ago, and her father is in an institution. As she struggles for cash in a fast food restaurant job to keep the bills paid, the verdant landscape is slowly overrun with cheap subdivisions and endless generic chain stores. When her father Charlie (Michael Douglas) comes home from the looney bin, his head is no less filled with wacky delusions than it had been before.

He believes that he has unraveled clues to finding a lost horde of doubloons once belonging to the Spanish explorer Torres. Miranda is skeptical of course, and is also engaged in her ongoing struggle to get through to her nutty and self-absorbed father. She reluctantly tags along with Charlie as he follows the path that Torres explored in 1624. It begins to look like he is actually not so crazy after all, as pointers and clues do in fact show up exactly where expected. As they follow the steps Torres took in the past, the inevitability of the present and the future become ever more clearly underlined. The rocks, valleys, rivers, and trees described in the Spanish explorer's journals have given way to fast food restaurants, housing subdivisions, pet stores, and parking lots. When Miranda and Charlie finally reach the end of the journey, the theoretical treasure is buried and a seemingly impenetrable place. A plan is hatched...

"King of California" is full of rampant product placement, but like the anti-establishmentarian Charlie, it seems that the filmmakers have slipped in a bit of welcome subversiveness, painting their sponsors within the context of the horrifyingly vanilla reality of suburban sprawl, and the equally bland people who inhabit it. This glimpse of paradise lost provides sharp contrast with the free thinking and the spirit of adventure that have vanished into the past. However, by halfway through the film, this idea is abandoned, in favor of a far less interesting one. Wood's sentimental voiceover sets the tone for the movie which forgets its message and simply becomes a drama about a world-wise daughter taking care of a childish father (with a little bit of a twisted take on the heist movie mixed in).

Aside from the voiceover, the movie does barely dodge going overboard into mawkish sentimentality, which is a tough trap to avoid in a movie like this one. Wood's performance is fairly milquetoast, but Douglas acquits himself admirably as the crazy Charlie. He resists the urge to either go over the top and play the part too broadly, or to go for the typical 'crazy guy' laughs. Charlie, as portrayed by Douglas, isn't so much stark raving insane as he is just significantly enough off kilter to make things difficult between him and his daughter (and society). "King of California" is a fine movie, but I think that it could have managed to tell both of the stories that the first half seemed to want to be telling, rather than jettisoning the more intriguing of the two in favor of something less topical and fresh.

Video

Independent British outfit Revolver Entertainment release "King of California" slightly cropped from the 1.85:1 original aspect ratio, opting to go for 1.78:1 instead. As per usual with such a small crop, it doesn't interfere with the picture by way of cutting peoples heads off or cutting vital moments of landscape/background. As one would expect from a recent movie, the picture quality is generally of a high standard with only minor edge enhancement and a little macro-blocking during a couple of darker moments - such as the raid on the Costco superstore. Colours are sunkissed, exactly how I imagine they looked during the theatrical run, and details are clear, with sharp, glistening, yellows and oranges making a good impact on the feel and tone of the movie. It's presented in PAL format with a runtime of 89:14, including the Revolver logo.

Audio

There are two audio options available here:
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

For my viewing, I opted for the 5.1 option which was better than average. It's a fairly front-heavy track, but the score by David Robbins makes good use of the surrounds for ambience and to help immerse the viewer in the lives of Evan Rachel Woods and Michael Douglas' characters. Sound effects are given good directionality that rarely falters, and dialogue is always clear and easy to understand. There are no audio dropouts, scratches or background hiss.

No subtitles have been included.

Extras

The only extra present is a making of featurette which clocks in at just under ten minutes. Unfortunately, it is very much a PR based effort and doesn't get into enough details of the project. It's worth a single watch, but it's a shame that Revolver didn't license the commentary found on the First Look release.

Overall

Movie reviewed by James Teitelbaum. A/V and extras reviewed by Samuel Scott.

The Film: B Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: E+ Overall: B-

 


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