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Rain Man: Special Edition

Few films manage to endear both critics and audiences, and even fewer deserve it. Despite the dismissive backlash allowed by the passage of time, Barry Levinson's Oscar-winner Rain Man fully deserves all its accolades and more. Tom Cruise plays Charlie Babbitt, a hot-headed, but emotionally cold, imported car broker whose selfish behavior is based on a well-nurtured sense of grievance and spite. The death of his estranged father compounds these character flaws, and Charlie is indignant when all he inherits of the $3 million estate is a prize rose garden and the classic Buick convertible that caused the paternal rift. The rest, he is told, has been put into trust. In a determined rage of indignation, Charlie tracks the trust to an Ohio home for the mentally disabled where, he is shocked to discover, he has an older brother he never knew. Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman) is autistic, a disorder manifesting in emotional, social, and logical dislocation, but, in Raymond's case, also yielding incredible powers of memory and calculation. Angered by yet another undeserved personal injury, Charlie absconds with his brother, offering only to return him for the $1.5 million he feels is rightly his. The core of Rain Man takes places on the difficult cross-country drive back to Los Angeles, during which Charlie grows more patient with, and accepting of, Raymond's condition, but he also recognizes and changes those same frustrating qualities in himself. Hoffman won an Oscar for his thorough and rightfully detached performance, nailing Raymond's autistic tics with sublime consistency, but Cruise's overlooked performance is perfect as well. Although it is another in a long line of callous egomaniac roles for the actor, it's a perfectly realized, subtle, and very touching piece of work. Levinson is one of those directors who can turn in a masterpiece one film and a pile of undistinguished schlock the next, but with Rain Man he gets it all right, aiming for quiet poignancy over melodrama and letting the characters work the story out between themselves instead of forcing them into an ill-fitting, formulaic ending. Hans Zimmer's unusual synthesized score and John Seale's lovely camerawork add to the overall aura of quality. MGM's Rain Man: Special Edition, which replaces an earlier bare-bones DVD release, offers a fine anamorphic transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include three audio commentaries, the first with Levinson, the second with original drafter Barry Morrow, and the third with Ron Bass. All three won Oscar for the film, and all three go into the production history of the picture, which kicked around Hollywood for quite some time. Also included is a vintage featurette (7 min.), a deleted scene (2 min.), and trailers for this and other MGM titles. Keep-case.
—Greg Dorr



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