Based upon the best-selling bio by Augusten Burroughs, "Running With Scissors" stars Joseph Cross as Burroughs, a young man who has watched as the relationship between his parents (Annette Bening and Alec Baldwin) has fallen apart. To make matters worse, Diedre (Bening) begins to become mentally unwell, which results in Augusten winding up at the home of Dr. Finch (Brian Cox), her mother's shrink.
While Augusten did not exactly have a warm and secure home life with his parents, his life with the Finch family is anything but normal. Finch's older daughter, Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow) talks to her cat, which does not exactly take well to living trapped under a laundry basket. The other daughter, who seems bitter enough to have gone sour (Evan Rachel Wood) is about the closest thing to normal in the house and becomes a source of comfort. Augusten also starts an unhappy relationship with her older brother, Neil (Joseph Fiennes). To top matters off, Dr. Finch relies on his "movements" to predict what will happens.
If this wasn't based on a book (which I admittedly haven't read), I'd have thought this film was morbid for morbid's sake - "Running" piles on the unhappiness like a gambler going back for thirds at a Vegas buffet. There's a few little moments of hope that shine on occasion in this movie for the characters, but there's really little warmth here or any humor to try and and lighten the mood for a moment. It's a 10-car pile-up of depressed characters, and it does get tiresome after about halfway through the picture. The popular tunes on the soundtrack have an uneasy fit with the film and I wondered while watching whose idea they were.
The performances aren't half bad (Wood, Cox and Bening are highlights, although none of them give their best efforts here), I simply didn't care for the material. It's difficult to connect to these characters, all of which seem glum. Director Ryan Murphy (creator of TV's popular "Nip/Tuck") really isn't able to do very much with this material; there's no edge, no attempt to really put any sort of spin on it, just presenting it in a very straightforward manner that results in the film lacking any urgency or momentum.
"Running" was an immensely popular novel, but this may have been better in other hands, such as director Wes Anderson's.
VIDEO: "Running With Scissors" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. Image quality is terrific, as the film looked crisp and well-defined, save for a few minor instances of softness. No pixelation or print flaws were noticed, but a couple of slight instances of edge enhancement were seen. Colors were a tad muted, but looked accurately presented. Black level looked strong throughout, while flesh tones were natural. Overall, certainly no major complaints.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is largely dialogue-driven, with occasional tunes on the soundtrack. Not surprisingly, surrounds aren't put into play very much at all, with the audio spread across the front speakers. Audio quality was just fine, with crisp, undistorted dialogue.
EXTRAS: Three brief "making of" documentaries and promos for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: There's nothing wrong with being depressing, but "Running With Scissors" is a slow, gloomy and largely aimless trip. The performances from a great ensemble cast aren't bad, but I wished for a director who had a better feel for the material and could have done something a bit more inspired with the material. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video and a few extras. Fans of the actors may still want to try a rental, but otherwise, skip it.
The Film C-