"Drowning Mona" starts off on the wrong foot and never quite gains its balance. As the movie opens, Mona Dearly(Bette Midler) goes out for a drive to find that he brakes don't work. She heads off a cliff and finds herself in the river. Why should we care? She was hated by many of the people in the town, who are all now considered suspects. The problem is, after all that, the film still doesn't manage to convince us why we should care. It's supposed to be a dark comedy; it gets the dark right, but the missing comedy should be something to investigate right after who killed Mona.
So, back to the begining we go. After the incident with Mona, we are introduced to some of the other inhabitants of the town; Mona's son Jeff; his partner Bobby(Casey Affleck); the sheriff(Danny Devito) and his daughter, Ellen(Neve Campbell). There's a couple of additional "colorful" characters, but they are hardly given any screen time. The rest of the film is pretty much devoted to Sheriff Devito going around from townsperson to townsperson trying to get information.
The film seems a little too caught up in its own wacky situations and characters instead of actually trying for anything funny. It doesn't help that Casey Affleck(Ben's brother) is the lead actor in the film. In a supporting role for "Good Will Hunting", he had a few great scenes, but he looks entirely bored in this role. Similarly lame are William Fichtner and Jamie Lee Curtis. Neve Campbell's Ellen is the only character that's at least somewhat sympathetic. Midler appears now and then in flashbacks, in a role even more unlikable than her adaptation of Jaqueline Susann in "Isn't She Great?". For a film full of so many oddballs, it's odd that it ends up seemingly so bland.
Director Nick Gomez("Illtown") seems to be better suited to comedy than drama. "Drowning Mona" loses its way early on, taking a long time to get to nowhere in particular.
VIDEO: Although "Drowning Mona" isn't the best looking film to begin with, Tristar's transfer is very good, although it has a few minor noticable problems. Sharpness is generally very good, there are a couple of sequences that looked a tad soft. Clarity and detail are not remarkable, but good as well. Colors vary - there were a few scenes where I felt colors looked slightly pale, but for the most part, they have a natural, solid appearance with a few outdoor scenes offering some nice looking scenery with bolder colors.
Flaws are pretty minor. I noticed some marks and slight scratches on the print used a couple of times early on in the film, but as it went on, I saw nothing to complain about. There are a couple of trace instances of pixelation, but these are hardly noticable as well. A pretty good transfer from Tristar for a movie that is definitely not very appealing visually. A full-frame version is available on the flip-side.
SOUND: While the video quality was decent, the audio actually was a step above what I've come to expect from comedies like this one. There certainly isn't much to it, but there were certain elements that I found enjoyable. Surrounds serve nicely to reinforce the music and for the occasional subtle effect. I liked much of the score, which includes songs from Three Dog Night and others. The music has a charming, rich presence and envelops the viewer nicely. Aside from that, the rest of the audio from "Drowning Mona" comes from the front, which is pretty much to be expected from a film like this. Dialogue is easily understood and clean. Nothing great, but I liked the music.
MENUS:: Colorful menus with film art and images; no animation or score in the background.
Commentary: This is a commentary track from director Nick Gomez. It's unfortunate that the movie itself couldn't be as entertaining as Gomez's discussion of the proceedings. He makes for an entertaining and informative commentary, telling the viewer the history of "Drowning Mona", from the writing process to the casting of the film.
The director generally takes each scene and breaks it down, talking about the actors and some stories behind-the-scenes that happened during the making of the film. Occasionally he gets held up a little talking in a little much detail about how pleased he was with the film and the actors, but when he gets back to the subject at hand, he provides quite a bit of interesting detail about what it was like to work on a smaller budget and a couple of funny stories, as well.
Again, Gomez gets a little too caught up in complimenting his film and his actors, but it's generally a pleasant tour of the film with few pauses.
Trailers: "Drowning Mona", "As Good As It Gets", "Desert Blue", "To Die For" and "Wild Things". Wild Things is the only trailer offered in Dolby Digital 5.1 - the others are 2.0.
Deleted Scenes: 4 deleted scenes, which look pretty rough. These can be viewed with commentary from director Gomez, as well. Nothing too interesting, but a nice additional feature.
Final Thoughts: I found "Drowning Mona" to be an unpleasant, not terribly entertaining film. Tristar has made another fine DVD, though. If you enjoyed this film, you'll enjoy the DVD - if you haven't seen it, though - I don't recommend it.
Purchase: CD Soundtrack
The Film C-
Video 87/B = (348/400 possible points)
Audio: 85/B = (340/400 possible points)
Extras: 80/B- = (240/300 possible points)
Menus: 75/C = (150/200 possible points)
Value: 81/B = (243/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: C-
DVD GRADE: B