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If you took one look at the DVD cover and deduced that this movie is another empty romantic comedy, you'd be wrong. One Last Thingdefies the conventions of the comedy genre with its honesty and themes of spirituality. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't challenge those conventions enough and fails to develop thematically, but it's still a decent way to spend an hour and half.
From the sound of the plot, you might write off One Last Thing as a lame comedy, sentimentally filled to the brim with zany antics. But, you should never judge a DVD by its cover, as this tale about a terminally ill, 16 year-old boy whose last wish is to spend a weekend, alone, with a supermodel avoids many of the pitfalls of the genre. And, although it fails to develop both thematically and aesthetically, One Last Thing provides an escape from the slew of empty movies that inhabit the (romantic) comedy genre.
The movie is, more or less, the coming-of-age story of Dylan (Michael Angarano), who is, at first, shown as a nearly unsympathetic, medicinal pot-head who watches his fair share of adult entertainment with his two best friends, Ricky and Slap, and makes his request to spend a weekend with supermodel Nikki Sinclair almost on a whim. Yet, as his condition worsens, he begins a spiritual journey, motivated by a video message from his deceased father, which takes him to New York City to make his own wish come true.
Dylan's condition, both physical and spiritual, affects his mother (Cynthia Nixon), who is trying to cope with her sonï¿½s condition and his desire to live his life in the short time he has left. Her concerns are the same as every mother - she wants to protect her son. She is reluctant to let Dylan go to New York with his hormone driven friends for fear of something happening to him but, as a supporting character points out, something is going to happen to Dylan that she cannot protect him from. Realizing this, she begins the painful process of letting her son go to live his life, which is punctuated by Dylan's impending death.
Rounding out the character trinity is Dylan's foil and love interest, Nikki (Sunny Mabrey), who is intentionally dying through substance abuse over to the death of her high school sweetheart. Unfortunately, Nikki is the weakest link in the chain. Her grief and guilt is fairly stereotypical, but it is a better excuse for her self-destructive ways than her celebrity. Her back story of leaving her small, southern town and her boyfriend for the glitz and glamour modeling is distracts from Dylanï¿½s story, as if these two characters were equally important.
Being near death, Dylan is confronted with spiritual ideas and metaphysical questions, which he continues to brush off in favor of a quasi-existentialist idea that there is no meaning beyond our existence. Although the film investigates Dylan's spiritual feelings, it's slanted and border-line insulting. At school, Dylan runs into a girl who represents fanatical Christians. Her tone is judgmental and over-bearing, hardly a fair representation of the faith. However, when Dylan is in New York City, he is introduced to Saivism, which he reluctantly accepts before he dies. The film's bias is painfully obvious and a bit off-putting. Instead of Dylan being presented with a spiritual choice, his path is clearly laid out by director Alex Steyermark who seems to be saying "my beliefs are better than these beliefs."
Ultimately, the real disappointment, other than a negative remark about Bob Dylan, is that the movie fails to capitalize on its theme through its aesthetics. Shot for shot, the images are used as a story-telling utility rather than a canvas for developing ideas. Steyermark exhibits a very basic understanding of visual story telling that not only keeps us an arm length away from the themes, but the characters as well. We merely see these characters doing things, but we are never actively involved in what they are doing and there is no urgency to their actions. Given the metaphysical questions the movie poses, the aesthetics could have injected more meaning behind the ideas of God and death by incorporating a bit more symbolism in its images. As it is, One Last Thing shows that it has more to offer, but not enough to give; even so, its charm and honesty makes it a decent way to pass an hour and a half.
The quality of the DVD is about on par with the movie itself. Presented in anamorphic widescreen at its original aspect ratio of 1.78 : 1, the video transfer is crisp and clear. The scenes of Dylan on fishing on the beach are particularly breathtaking but though great in spots, visually the movie isn't overly impressive. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, also presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, keeps the dialogue on top, but the rest of the soundtrack is rather thin; admittedly, this isn't the type of movie that will blow your speaker covers off.
As for the special features, the main attraction is the director audio commentary. Alex Steyermark doesn't say too much about the film that we don't already see, but his behind the scenes anecdotes are somewhat interesting - a typical director commentary, but a welcome addition.
As for the rest of the disc, there is an episode of Higher Definition, which is a 30 minute featurette that includes behind-the-scenes footage and some fairly awful interviews. If you like interviews with the actors who don't know what they are talking about and try to sell you on the movie, then this featurette is for you. However, if you like watching people fall down, the outtakes and alternative takes are more your speed. A theatrical trailer, which does a much better job marketing this movie than the DVD cover, and a slew of other trailers for fairly worthwhile movies (Bubble and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) are also included.
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