Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Video review: "(500) Days of Summer"

One of the unexpected delights of the cinematic year, "(500) Days of Summer" was the sleeper hit that reminded us romantic comedies don't have to be formulaic and gooey.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel play the couple, who, unlike in most films of the genre, don't spend 80 minutes clashing with each other before suddenly realizing they're in love.

They hit it off right from the start -- mostly because Summer is a fearless gal who makes the first move on office drone Tom -- and spend the next 500 days riding the ups and downs of modern romance.

Director Marc Webb and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber coyly shift the timeline back and forth, using numbered titles to let us know which day we are in the progression. So we know that Tom and Summer hit a rough patch somewhere around Day 320, while Days 50-100 are that love-stupid phase where everything seems magical.

Extras aren't exactly huge in scope, but are fairly substantive and engaging.

There's a little over 14 minutes of deleted and extended scenes. Most of it is the usual extraneous stuff that deserved to end up on the cutting room floor, except for a hilarious opposite-day version of the musical number set to Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams," with this time everything going awry -- the passer-by bumps Tom instead of smiling, the bird poops on his shoulder, etc.

Webb, Neustadter, Weber and Gordon-Levitt team up for a nicely bantering commentary track. Among the revelations is one of the writers confessing that "about 75 percent" of the fracturing relationship depicted in the movie actually happened to him. Talk about suffering for you art.

Told with original verve and hipster irony, "(500) Days of Summer" is funny, charming and smart filmmaking. It's a romantic comedy even the boyfriends will love.

Movie: 3.5 stars
Extras: 3 stars

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