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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 11/8/02

2002 (2002) - American Zoetrope (MGM)

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Pumpkin Film Rating: C

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C-/C+/D

Specs and Features
116 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

"I've heard of guys losing their girls to black guys or lesbians... but retards?"

Carolyn McDuffy (Christina Ricci) is the sorority girl who has it all. She's got popularity, blonde hair, a tennis star boyfriend and a happily ignorant environment. But when her sorority decides to volunteer as mentors for the "Special Games," she comes face-to-face with something she's never had to deal with before. His name is Pumpkin Romanoff (played by Hank Harris), and he's not as perfect as she is... the first such person that she's met.

As she helps to train him for the games, she sees that despite his handicap, he has the ability to feel and to love. By simply being there, Carolyn begins to open her mind to the real world. She breaks up with her boyfriend and begins a romance with Pumpkin, much to everyone's horror.

Directed by Anthony Abrams and Adam Larson Broder, Pumpkin is essentially a student film. Obviously filmed at the University of Southern California (in Los Angeles), the film's quirkiness and low budget look and feel seem to be the product of two students from the USC Film School. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that (hey... I majored in film), but Pumpkin comes off less than a film about people's treatment of the mentally handicapped, or even as a cutting satire, than it does about two filmmakers trying to make a film quirky enough to get noticed in Hollywood (the film did compete at Sundance in January 2002).

The film is highlighted by Christina Ricci as a sorority girl who realizes that life is not about marrying the richest guy she can have, or raising kids in a WASPy, upper-class upbringing. When we first see Christina, we automatically think that she's going to do a riff on Reese Witherspoon's performance in Legally Blonde, but Christina is capable of more and she delivers another wonderful performance, showcasing a Carolyn that is far more multi-faceted than she would have you believe. But despite her having a more complex, less obvious arc than Witherspoon's Elle Woods, Ricci isn't surrounded by good performances or the well-written story that Witherspoon was.

To be honest, Pumpkin can get pretty uneasy to watch. It often gets caught up in its over-dramatic storytelling technique, that is either striving for cutting satire or serious drama and just doesn't hit either mark. Most of the supporting characters, including Pumpkin himself, are underdeveloped. And some, such as Pumpkin's mother, Judy (played by Brenda Blethyn), are just wasted. Sure, Ricci has the best performance, but there is no other character that's even in the same league as hers.

Unfortunately, MGM has served up the disc for the film with a ho-hum transfer. The video quality here is one of the most inconsistent transfers I've seen in a long time. The colors, notably skin tones, change during the coarse of the film. In some scenes, actors have normal skin tones, but in others they look orange or even purple. Greens and blues are often weak. On top of that, there is an excessive amount of edge enhancement. It's distracting and, as a DVD savant, I think it's completely unacceptable compared to the transfers I've been seeing lately. I should mention, however, that there is absolutely no compression artifacting.

The only audio track that's provided is Dolby Digital 5.1 in flavor, but this isn't exactly a film that warrants surround sound. There is very little directionality, or use of the surrounds for that matter. The score is pleasantly spread across the front channels, and the dialogue is always understandable. It's a very stripped down 5.1 track, much like the disc that it sits on, which has provided an anamorphically enhanced trailer as the only extra.

It's very hard to recommend Pumpkin, a bare-bones disc with a feature that elicits either dislike or indifference. If you aren't offended by the treatment of the mentally retarded in the film, you'll probably feel like you've wasted your time just the same. Still, Christina Ricci, always at her best, is enough for me to recommend the film to those who have more than a passing interest already.

Graham Greenlee

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