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Taken from Wikipedia: “By Plato comedy is defined as the generic name for all exhibitions which have a tendency to excite laughter. Though its development was mainly due to the political and social conditions of Athens, it finally held up the mirror to all that was characteristic of Athenian life.” Is Safe Men derived from the political and social conditions of our society or a mirror of our way of life? ‘Fraid not. Instead, director John Hamburg (Along Came Polly) follows a different definition of comedy, which involves people running around in goofy clothes doing zany things.
As musicians, Sam’s and Eddie’s career is going nowhere -- their performance is as atrocious as the outfits they wear (queue the laughter). When these two friends are mistaken for “major league safecrackers” by a local mob boss, hilarity ensues in this fish-out-of-water tale. If this film sounds generic and uninspired, that’s because it’s exactly that. Despite the presence of a few talented actors, namely Paul Giamatti and Mark Ruffalo, director John Hamburg’s Safe Men is a depth-less “comedy” that fails to impress.
Safe Men subscribes to the current trend of actors in “funny” costumes doing “funny” things in a near parody of themselves. The problem with most current comedies is that they are too preoccupied with trying to make the audience laugh, rather than focusing on a story with actual characters. Hamburg’s actors are not characters, they are caricatures. When Sam and Eddie are performing at a nursing home or Jewish mob boss Big Fat Bernie is watching his portly son, Bernie Jr., learn some new dance moves for his Bar Mitzvah, it provokes the same chuckle as when you see a caricature artist emphasizing the nose or ears of a patron at an amusement park. These aren’t characters you connect or sympathies with, instead you point and laugh at Veal Chop’s (Giamatti) zebra jammer pants or Big Bernie’s wind suit.
Unfortunately, the plot is just as unimportant as the characters; it’s an excuse to put these characters into funny situations. To his credit, however, Hamburg does try to add a bit of depth with the father/son relationship themes. Sam, Eddie and Veal Chop are basically children looking for a parental figure. In Eddie’s case, his estranged father was a career criminal and as he dabbles in safe cracking he comes to terms with his relationship with his father. Veal Chop is constantly looking to Big Bernie for approval as the father he never had. Sam denies any paternal relationship in favor of the tact-on love interest, who just happens to be a “daddy’s girl” type (ala Pam from Meet the Parents, a Hamburg penned screenplay). Yet, the sentiments in the relationships fall flat because of the original fact that we don’t care about these characters in the least. Instead, these themes play second fiddle to a funny mustache. Apparently, Hamburg finds it more important to beg for a laugh from the audience rather than create a film that someone could care about.
All that said, if you enjoy an empty chuckle, you could do a lot worse than Safe Men. In a genre that is filled with mind-numbing romantic comedies and gross-out teen humor, Safe Men follows all the genre clichés without stepping over the boundary of taste, making for a conservative comedy that you would expect from the writer of Zoolander. On the other hand, if you are the type of viewer that likes to engage a film rather than supply its laugh track, you’ll want to skip Safe Men.
This “Collector’s Edition” is what you would expect from any other Focus Features DVD release. The video is presented in an anamorphic, 1.85 : 1 widescreen format that is incredibly crisp. While the colors are vibrant there are times where the image is a bit soft, but it’s nothing consistently noticeable. The audio is presented in a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track and does an adequate job handling the dialogue and music.
Getting into the meat of the special features, the DVD offers an audio commentary track by director John Hamburg and actors Sam Rockwell and Steve Zahn (Sam and Eddie, respectively). The track is worth listening to if you enjoyed the film as the director talks about the usual making-of with some anecdotes and the actors mostly joke around about their filming experience. Though it is apparent that Hamburg was recorded separately, the track is well edited and hardly sparse of discussion.
The DVD also includes deleted scenes that were deleted for a reason. If you love the film, you’ll be happy they are included, but if you didn’t, they are a waste of time. Perhaps the most interesting supplement on the disc is Hamburg’s student film, Tick. Tick feels much like Safe Men in its amateur execution of filmmaking, but its addition of the DVD is a treat for those who enjoy Hamburg’s comedic styling. Also included before the menu, which looks like a first generation DVD menu, are trailers for the recent DVD releases of The Big Lebowski and Brick.
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