[box cover]

Get Shorty: Collector's Edition

After Pulp Fiction ushered in the modern Age of the Indie in 1994, no one was sitting prettier than John Travolta. The erstwhile Look Who's Talking star was suddenly on top of the Hollywood dust-heap again, ready to reclaim both his fame and his reputation. He cemented his comeback in 1995 with Get Shorty, a snap-crackle-and-pop showbiz comedy based on the novel by Elmore Leonard. As Chili Palmer, a Miami loan shark who chases a trail of deadbeats to L.A. and discovers he has a talent for the movie business, Travolta charmed audiences all over again, this time reaching even the folks who found Pulp Fiction a little too indie for their tastes (remember, Quentin Tarantino's baby lost the Best Picture Oscar to Forrest Gump…). And, really, what's not to like? When Leonard's novels work on screen, they work (Get Shorty, Out of Sight, yes; The Big Bounce no). Full of colorful characters and smart dialogue, Get Shorty mixes two movie plot chestnuts — the showbiz comedy and the mob picture — and comes up with something fresh and unexpected. Much of the movie's humor comes from the absurdity of seeing big, powerful enforcer types like Chili and one of his antagonists, Bo (Delroy Lindo), get sucked into the Hollywood game, swapping screenplay tips and setting automotive trends ("It's the Cadillac of minivans!"). But director Barry Sonnenfeld and screenwriter Scott Frank don't just go for the easy jokes. They make the effort to give their characters enough depth to stick with, from Rene Russo's sarcastic scream queen Karen Flores to Danny DeVito's earnest egomaniac Martin Weir. Other stand-outs include Gene Hackman's Harry Zimm, a down-on-his-luck B-movie producer who has no choice but to let Chili get involved in his next project, and Dennis Farina's Ray "Bones" Barboni. Farina has played more than his share of tough guys and criminals, but few of them are as genuinely entertaining as Barboni; if the scenes that find Bones spitting mad while swathed in white bandages don't elicit a giggle or two, Get Shorty probably isn't your kind of movie. Which is too bad, because with all of the twisty double-crosses and fast-talking audiences want from a good heist movie — and all of the L.A. in-jokes that tickle outsiders and make insiders roar with laughter — Get Shorty is the kind of picture that makes it fun to go to the movies. The folks at MGM have put together a decent, if not exciting, package for the two-disc Special Edition. The first disc offers the movie in a nice anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with strong DTS 5.1 audio (English and French 5.1 Dolby Surround tracks are also available, as is an English 2.0 Stereo track and English, Spanish, and French subtitles). Sonnenfeld contributes a full-length commentary; some of his behind-the-scenes factoids and technical tips are interesting, but overall his voice isn't one you want to listen to for two hours. The bonus disc houses the rest of the extras: a pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes ("Get Shorty: Look at Me" and "Get Shorty: Wiseguys and Dolls"), a deleted scene featuring a cameo by Ben Stiller (along with an explanation of why the scene was cut), a mini "anatomy of a scene" featurette (that's inaccurately billed as an outtake on the packaging), a six-minute "party reel" of poor-quality behind-the-scenes footage, a sneak peek at the Get Shorty sequel, Be Cool, an episode of Bravo's "Page to Screen" show, a photo gallery, and trailers. The tri-fold digipack with paperboard slipcase also includes a booklet of printed production notes.
—Betsy Bozdech

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