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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Two-Disc Special Edition) - drama DVD / suspense / Oscar nominated DVD review
Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 5 stars
Actors: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Julia Ormond, Tilda Swinton, Tom Everett, Jason Flemyng
Director: David Fincher Studio: Criterion
DVD release: 05 May 2009 Runtime: 166 minutes (2 discs)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 2.40:1, Audio tracks (5.1 Dolby Surround - English, Spanish, French), Subtitles (English, Spanish, French), Interviews with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, Audio commentary (dir. David Fincher), Footage revealing the innovative techniques behind the Academy Award-winning visual effects and makeup, Step-by-step examination of the motion-capture process aging Brad Pitt, In-depth exploration of David Fincher's creative process on the set, Interview w/ composer Alexandre Desplat about the score, Featurettes (storyboards, costumes, Academy Award-winning Art Direction), Stills galleries (costume designs, behind-the-scenes production photos), Essay by film critic Kent Jones

I'll come right out and say it: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was one of the most enjoyable movies I have watched in a long time. Not that it is a "feel-good" story. Quite the contrary; it's almost downright depressing. If you've read F. Scott Fitzgerald's short novel on which the movie was based, you might not recognize the story at all, save for the main character who is born old and gets younger as time passes.

But this is one case where the movie is better than the book. The movie's enhanced storyline and the quirky additional characters bring new life to the tale. Additionally, the cinematography is excellent, the acting superb, the music simple but marvelous, and the special effects like nothing I've ever seen before.

The aging and "youthenization" effects done by 3-D tracking to create digital cosmetic enhancements are enough to cause makeup artists and cosmetic surgeons to fear for their jobs. The technology enables Brad Pitt to play almost every scene as Benjamin Button, except for his birth as a wrinkled old baby and when he reverts to a toddler and baby again at the end of his life.

I don't usually go ga-ga over Pitt, but his transformation is striking enough so that by the time the scene comes along (the one shown in all the trailers) where he hops on a motorcycle and rides down the road, he appears as one of the most drop-dead gorgeous men ever, compared to the wrinkled old man he was earlier. And toward the end of the movie as he grows younger, you could swear editors spliced in footage from Pitt's television days in the 1980s. Equally impressive is Cate Blanchett's transformation from old to young, to old again as Benjamin's love, Daisy.

The story takes twists and turns with a host of characters, led by Taraji P. Henson as Benjamin's adoptive mother, Queenie; Tilda Swinton as another love of Benjamin's; and my favorite, Captain Mike, played by Jared Harris.

The underlying theme of Benjamin Button is to enjoy life, and the writers use an unusual (perhaps backwards?) combination of love and death - along with commitment and freedom - to tell the story perfectly enough that the premise of a person getting younger as time passes seems perfectly plausible.

Surprisingly, I didn't lose interest during this nearly three-hour movie, but the pace at the beginning could have been picked up a bit. The plot contains no big surprises, running smoothly and engagingly throughout.

The two-disc special edition includes audio commentary featuring Academy Award-nominated director David Fincher on Disc 1. Disc 2 includes a nearly 3-hour making-of feature, showing how the digital cosmetic enhancements were done as well as details of the film-making process.
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reviewed by Nancy Atkinson
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