[box cover]

A Beautiful Mind: Awards Edition

Universal Studios Home Video

Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Adam Goldberg,
Anthony Rapp, Ed Harris, and Christopher Plummer

Written by Akiva Goldsman
From the book by Sylvia Nasar

Directed by Ron Howard

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Review by Gregory P. Dorr                   

Once America's favorite child star, Ron Howard has grown up into America's favorite childlike filmmaker — one who obliviously distills complex scenarios, emotions, and relationships into pudding-like caricatures of reality. While it may be taxing at times to try to discern just how it is that such mediocre filmmaking can gain such laurels, it's perfectly easy to imagine any of Howard's films — from Cocoon to Apollo 13 to his Academy-Award-winning monstrosity A Beautiful Mind — pasting a giant grin across the gawking mug of innocent Richie Cunningham and eliciting a hearty "Gee whiz!" from the Happy Days crowd.

A Beautiful Mind is the by-all-accounts almost-100%-fictional recreation of the real life of Nobel Prize-winning physicist John Nash (Russell Crowe), who, bookending violent fits of delusional paranoid schizophrenia, conjured up a revolutionary theory on equilibrium. In a grand effort to suck all nuance from this fertile tale, Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman try to transform Nash into some kind of romantic hero: We see young Nash dreamily scribbling equations on his dorm window; we see shy Nash erecting breakthrough arguments while eyeing a sultry blonde across a crowded room; we see Nash embroiled in dangerous covert government code-breaking operations which, even though imagined by a disturbed intellectual shut-in circa 1950, appear to have been ripped from trite 1980s B-movies by the hack screenwriter of such clichéd tripe as Lost in Space and the last two Batman movies.

Howard adds his own special touch of thickheaded obviousness to the proceedings by illuminating Nash's processes with glowing numbers and magical light rays visible only to the super-smart and seriously disturbed, transforming Nash from the controversial figure he was in real life into a disabled-yet-ingenious Harry Potter of the academic set — and with a buff Russell Crowe physique to boot.

Crowe is the best thing about this shallow, self-congratulatory biopic, even if his work here is below the standard of his prime performances in L.A. Confidential and The Insider. It takes a while to get past the physical miscasting of powerful Crowe into this meek and nerdy role. He has no trouble selling Nash's hyperactive intellect or the tolls of his mental illness — two feats that would level most inferior actors — but still Crowe's affected stuttering and mousy Rain Man-ish demeanor feel a bit labored and suspicious. Jennifer Connelly won a Best Supporting Actress award for her role as Nash's long-suffering wife Alicia, and also does a fine job given her limited role of being flirty/stern/sad/stoic in response to Nash's erratic behavior. Also on display are solid supporting performances by Anthony Rapp and Adam Goldberg, while talents like Ed Harris and Christopher Plummer are sadly stuck with silly, melodramatic roles.


Disc One of Universal's two-disc A Beautiful Mind: Awards Edition features the film in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Accompanying the feature are two facile commentaries (accessible only by navigating to the Languages menu), one by Howard and the other by Goldsman, and 26 minutes of unindexed deleted scenes with an introduction and optional commentary by Howard, most of which underline the director's pedestrian, sophomoric approach to the material.

The second disc in this package is filled with an assortment of extras that do little more than further expose the film's already apparent faults.

— Gregory P. Dorr

Disc One

Disc Two

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© 2002, The DVD Journal