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Finding Forrester

Finding Forrester is a movie we've all seen before — and not just when it was called Good Will Hunting (the two films were even directed by the same man, Gus Van Sant). The feel-good drama about a quirky, reclusive writer (Sean Connery) who becomes a mentor to an inner city kid with potential (newcomer Rob Brown) has elements of everything from The Man Without a Face to The Hurricane to School Ties. But familiarity isn't always a bad thing — even if you have a fairly clear idea of how everything's going to turn out in the end, you can enjoy watching a film's characters make their celluloid journey. And when the characters are played by talented actors, so much the better. Connery is in fine form as the title character, a ferocious J.D. Salinger-like Pulitzer Prize winner who wrote one brilliant novel and hasn't been heard from since. Holed up in his Bronx apartment, William Forrester watches the world around him with binoculars, observing life but no longer participating in it. That changes when a dare leads Jamal Wallace (Brown), a 16-year-old basketball player who also happens to be a very talented writer, to his cluttered, book-filled lair. Brown gives an amazing debut performance, playing Jamal with subtlety born of experience (he was discovered in the same neighborhood the movie is set in). The unlikely pair becomes friends, and Forrester not only helps Jamal with his writing, but assists him as the boy deals with the politics and resentments at his new school, a posh private academy where he's more appreciated on the basketball court than in the classroom. The scenes between Jamal and Forrester are unquestionably the best in the movie — Brown and Connery have a great rapport, and it shows. Anna Paquin, F. Murray Abraham, and Busta Rhymes also do well in their supporting roles, although Abraham's part as the bitter, condescending Professor Crawford is somewhat one-dimensional. But in the end — even though it's a little slow at times and you can see the ending coming a mile away — Finding Forrester is ultimately a pleasant, touching drama with a worthwhile message about hard work and friendship. The movie looks great on Columbia TriStar's DVD edition — the digitally mastered anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) is crisp, and the colors are rich and warm. Both the Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround soundtracks (also digitally mastered) are clear; French dubbing is also available, as are English and Spanish subtitles. The special features include a nice pair of featurettes — HBO's 15-minute "making-of" special and a slightly shorter piece about how the filmmakers discovered Brown. Two deleted scenes, both of the high school choir singing, are also included, as are brief filmographies for Van Sant and the principal cast. Scene selection, trailers (for Forrester and other Columbia films on DVD), and a four-page insert with production notes round out the list of extras. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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