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Kinsey: Special Edition

No matter how far past middle school they might be, for most people, talking frankly about sex is still a giggle-inducing proposition. That's part of what makes Professor Alfred Kinsey such an interesting character (all the more so because he really existed). Writer/director Bill Condon's thoughtful, intimate 2004 biopic presents the infamous sexuality researcher (played by Liam Neeson) as a dedicated naturalist who was so free of pretension and artifice — and so fascinated by his fellow humans — that no subject fazed him and no behavior, no matter how eyebrow-raising, threw him for a loop. A scientist through and through, Kinsey was devoted to showing people that they were all "normal." Kinsey's dedication to sex, we learn, was sparked by his own bumpy start in the bedroom. On their wedding night, Kinsey (affectionately known as "Prok," short for "Professor Kinsey") and his bride, free-thinking, forthright Clara "Mac" McMillen (Laura Linney), have a dismal experience; luckily, a quick trip to an expert sets them down the road to a happy, fulfilling sex life. Prok makes it his mission to help others in similar circumstances; a sex class at Indiana University leads to what will become his life's work: collecting and analyzing sex histories from people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Along the way he also collects a few disciples, including enigmatic Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard), boyish Wardell Pomeroy (Chris O'Donnell), and dapper Paul Gebhard (Timothy Hutton), all of whom find their sexual attitudes and practices affected by their association with the bow-tied dynamo. Kinsey's own horizons — which, the film tells us, were partially hemmed in by his demeaning, fire-and-brimstone preacher father (John Lithgow), broaden significantly as a result of his work; Condon doesn't hesitate to include Prok's affair with another man (although some Kinsey experts claim the film doesn't accurately portray the extent of the researcher's various extramarital relationships). Though it all, Neeson plays Kinsey with passion and conviction , giving a strong performance that's backed up by good work from the rest of the cast, particularly Sarsgaard (whose work is often underappreciated) and Linney. Linney seems to have a lock on playing intelligent, strong women these days, and she infuses Mac with a compelling blend of empathy and street smarts, making her just the kind of partner Kinsey needed to keep him tethered to the real world. Kinsey the movie may never achieve the kind of notoriety that Kinsey the man did, but as an introduction to one of the 20th century's most polarizing personalities, Condon's picture pushes all the right buttons. Fox's two-disc special edition offers a nice anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio options (Spanish and French 2.0 tracks are also available, as are English and Spanish subtitles). Condon contributes an affable commentary track on the first disc; the rest of the extras are on the second platter, where there are 21 deleted and extended scenes (including the original ending), a three-minute gag reel, trailers, a brief tour of the museum at the Kinsey Institute, an interactive sex questionnaire (based on real science, unlike most DVD quizzes), and a feature-length "making-of" documentary that goes well beyond the fluff of most featurettes. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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