Alpha Dog is one of those films where there really needs to be a lot of alcohol, a lot of smokes, and a lot of coffee just to keep you awake through the whole thing. The characters are over-the-top unbelievable, the lighting is practically a blackout, and the dialogue is forced throughout most of the film. How forced was it? 310 F-bombs forced. It’s not even Jason Statham in Crank good-wholesome F’s either.
Alpha Dog tells the "true story" of a kid who gets kidnapped by a drug dealer looking for payment and then begins to blend in with his captors. While the script is originally inspired by a true story of a kidnapped boy, I don’t believe that boy went to parties, had a blast, and a threesome. Call me crazy folks, but this is pure Hollywood glitter to show gangstas that go to their trailers during takes to count the zeros in their contracts. To sum it up, one of the lines in the film goes a little something like this, “the only thing he’s ever shot is a music video.”
What’s tough with Alpha Dog is that the actors really are good at acting. They’re full of emotion, drama, intensity, and movement; their actions and facial expressions are wonderful. It’s the written dialogue that doesn’t fit. For portrayed potheads they sure are uptight, and full of energy, and anxiety, and have their own houses. Where are the Doritos? The half-burnt bags of popcorn? And the guy/girl that suddenly wants to cook a feast in the middle of it all with their only prerequisite being the bag of popcorn? Wait, they’re not potheads at all, they’re actors reading lines verbatim and sprinkling them with “crazy” ad libs that must be inside jokes. There’s not a single grammatical reason to use the F-bomb more than twice in one sentence, and these guys are spitting them out like watermelon seeds. If there was some more tweaking on the script side of things these young boys could have looked less like posers and more like gangsters.
The story that comes from the film is a fine one that tests limits and show bonds being made and broken. The movie follows the event, the news story, but forgets to follow the characters or focus in too closely to give motives or build characterization. It’s one two-hour long news reel that forgets to look from the inside. Some of the cast even seem to float in and out of the story. For instance, the character of Elvis seems prominent from the beginning and then disappears until the end of the film. Likewise the bulk of the “known” actors in Alpha Dog play minor, barely seen roles. The only real constants of the film are Justin Timberlake and Anton Yelchin (the stolen boy). If more of the movie followed them or at least followed their lead in actually developing the characters before putting them on the F parade, then this would have been a better picture.
While Alpha Dog isn’t completely horrible, there are a few good moments (Sharon Stone at the end is awesome) and some one liners, it in no way does the story of this kidnapped boy justice and if his real life parents saw this film they would be ashamed of what was done to his memory. There’s a reason why Lifetime is able to crank these films out and it’s not because they’re high quality made for TV movies. Alpha Dog is worth a quick look if the kids or stoners are in bed but no promises it won’t be alpha doggie do-do.
The special features for Alpha Dog consist of eleven minutes of the actors talking about what the film was supposed to be about. They have great points to make and if the movie really “showed” that, well, there wouldn’t be a need for this making of. If the intention came across just by watching the movie that this is a story about absent parents, kids forcibly growing up too fast, and what drugs and violence do to families, it could have been a great film. Unfortunately, for twenty bucks, that’s all there is aside from a really uncreative witness timeline with fake quotes and button that jumps to the section in the movie where they appear. That’s all. More alpha doggie do-do.
What the disc should have had at the bare minimum was an audio commentary by someone. That’s for starters. It wouldn’t have hurt in 2006 to have put a little more effort into making a longer making of featurette, a real life documentary about the stolen boy or the kidnappers, a behind the scenes showing how long it took to give everyone fake tattoos, bloopers and outtakes, more interviews with the “name” actors (Sharon Stone, Bruce Willis, Alan Thicke), audition videos - egad, more than one audio commentary, a fold out timeline of events, a T-shirt, a stapler (worked for Office Space), anything else to give this disc value and purpose.
Great movies are made to stand alone and stand the test of time. The not-so-good ones need a ton of extra features to give the viewer something more to hold onto to make it worth their money. If there isn’t a Director’s Cut of Alpha Dog in the near future, then there’s money to be made on Ebay.
Reviewed By: Margaret Williams