Although "Inventing The Abbotts" isn't a film that's going to be remembered by many, it brings a talented young cast together for a story that remains mildly interesting. The film revolves around Doug and Jacey Holt, played by Joaquin Phoenix (To Die For) and Billy Crudup (Almost Famous). Although Doug also serves as the narrator, you might recognize the voice as an uncredited Michael Keaton.
Anyways, the 50's set drama has the Holts involved the Abbott girls - Alice (Joanna Going), Eleanor (Jennifer Connelly) and Pamela (Liv Tyler). Although the Abbotts remain the upper class of the town, Jacey believes that the Abbotts stole a business idea from them. Although the Holt's father has passed, they still take care of their mother(Kathy Baker).
The remainder of the film has the Holts getting in trouble with Lloyd Abbott(Will Patton), the protective father of the girls. Elsewhere, Jacey is seeing Eleanor while Doug is also falling for her. Meanwhile, Pamela also is attracted to Doug. So, in other words, imagine "Dawson's Creek" set in the 50's.
The film's first half hour generally is the most enjoyable, as we set up the characters. Once the first half hour ends, the most gets into a bit of trouble that even the talented actors and actresses really can't get it out of. The characters really don't do a great deal once it's been defined who they are and what their backgrounds are. What's left to go is really a rather soap-opera level plot which often moves slowly. Still, the performances are certainly engaging. Jennifer Connelly (who was also with Crudup for the excellent "Waking The Dead") is strong as the "bad girl" of the Abbotts, and Liv Tyler is almost impossibly adorable as the good girl in a cute performance. Phoenix and Crudup are okay, but neither gives their best work.
Still, there are some nice moments throughout. The romances (and there seems to be many of them in this picture) are believable. Technically, the picture is also excellent with Kenneth MacMillan's cinematography providing several stunning sequences. The film's period look is also very impressive, with a most definite 50's feel to nearly every detail. It's just unfortunate that the film couldn't have been worked into a more engaging drama. The fine cast has some good moments, but overall, it could have been better.
VIDEO: This is another excellent presentation from 20th Century Fox; although it has some minor flaws, many scenes look particularly beautiful. Sharpness and detail are especially good throughout the film. Although some of it has a sort of intentionally soft, "period" feel, these scenes looked accurately rendered and never hazy or blurry.
Some little problems were apparent, but nothing that really took me out of the viewing experience too much. Occasionally, a print flaw or two would pop up in the form of a tiny mark or speckle. Some trace amounts of pixelation are also visible on a few instances. None of these problems really added up to being too irritating.
Colors are really the most enjoyable element of the presentation. Lush, beautiful colors fill the screen throughout, looking vibrant and well-saturated, with no problems. A very good transfer from Fox, with only some minor flaws to distract from the beautiful cinematography.
SOUND: "Inventing The Abbotts" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, but almost 99% of the audio comes from the front. As a dialogue-driven piece with a light music score, the film really never has many opportunities to become more active. Surrounds are used a tiny bit for the music, but it's hardly noticable.
Audio quality is enjoyable, and makes up for lack of envelopment. The music remains warm an crisp, sounding great throughout. Dialogue sounds fine as well, natural and clear.
MENUS:: Although the menus aren't animated, the main menu at least is nicely done, with the background being the town and selections as different parts of the scene.
Trailers: Trailers for "Smilla's Sense Of Snow", "Titus", "The Ice Storm", "Grand Canyon" and "Inventing The Abbotts".
Featurette: A short featurette offers mainly "promotional" interviews that simply talk about the story and characters.
Final Thoughts: The "Abbotts" might be worth a renting if you're a fan of the stars involved. Fox has put together a fine DVD with a solid presentation of the film, but with few extra features.
The Film ** 1/2
Video 91/A- = (364/400 possible points)
Audio: 85/B = (340/400 possible points)
Extras: 72/C = (216/300 possible points)
Menus: 79/C+ = (158/200 possible points)
Value: 81/B = (243/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ** 1/2
DVD GRADE: B