Billy Bob Thornton is a strange ranger, even by Hollywood standards. He is a self-made man, resulting from his breakthrough role as writer/director/star of Sling Blade. With Daddy & Them, Thornton returns to his role as a triple threat, and the result is a film that is not only funny, but features more stars than a stint in rehab. The list of notables includes Thornton, Laura Dern, Dianne Ladd, Kelly Preston, Jim Varney, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ben Affleck, Brenda Blethyn, musician John Prine and even America… legend Andy Griffith.
The film follows Thornton and Dern, an insanely jealous married couple, as they travel to visit his family in Little Rock, AR, as his uncle (Varney) has been incarcerated while awaiting trial for attempted murder. This is not just a story about white trash family, but they are unbelievably dysfunctional as well. The comedy comes quickly and masterfully from all directions, resulting on one of the best independent films that I have seen in quite some time.
This is an unimpressive audio presentation. Surrounds are used to a minimum, and the LFE channel is virtually nonexistent. Also, some of the dialog is a bit difficult to discern, especially in the nighttime scenes, when the characters are whispering.
Speaking of the nighttime whispering scenes, there is a glaring ADR mistake during one of these sequences. During one of the scenes in the bedroom at night between Thornton and Dern, Thornton’s character says a line twice, in exactly the same way, though his character only moves his mouth on the second pass. This is a glaring mistake, and I am shocked that it got past the review process at Miramax.
Having said all of that, there is really nothing particularly dreadful about the soundtrack. The film is easy to follow, and the audio presented here is acceptable. Nothing great, nothing horrible.
The video quality is better than that of the audio, but it is still not fantastic. From the opening credits, the footage is a bit on the grainy side. Part of this is due to the use of old family photographs, but some of it is because of the quality of the footage itself. I was also dismayed to find that there are quite a few blemishes scattered throughout the film.
It’s not all bad, however. There is some great coloration in the exterior scenes, which make for a marked contrast to the dingy interiors. Also nice are the dream sequences, which are, well… dreamlike. While I have certainly seen better transfers in my day, this one is genuinely not that bad.
Many times, I have been surprised to find that a title may only have a few extras listed on the back of the box, but once I get into it, there is a wealth of information included. Unfortunately, the opposite is true here. What appears to be a decent set of extras really winds up being mostly filler. Understandable, given the nature of this title, but annoying nonetheless.
There are six trailers for other Miramax films included here, for such titles as Under the Tuscan Sun and The Osbourne’s, Season Two. The Behind-the-Scenes Special is a four-minute love fest featuring the cast and crew discussing their adoration for Billy Bob. Five Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary are also included, though they are almost all extended, rather than deleted, scenes. There are a few of these that should have made it into the movie, however, so it is definitely worth a peek.
The commentary is the highlight of this disc for me. The information comes at a relaxed pace, yet it is still informative and enjoyable. Finally, there is a bizarre scene called The Return of Karl, which features Billy Bob in the full costume from his role in Sling Blade. In this piece, Karl is depicted as the next door neighbor, who stops by for a chat. This is pure fun.
I enjoyed this film immensely, though I admit that it may be because I know these characters all too well. I have family members that are like these people. In fact, I also live in Arkansas. Now, that is certainly not to say that I am one of these people, but I can say that I see them on a daily basis. It was wonderful to see these simple people given some depth and realism. This is not a film about Hollywood’s perception of white trash Southerners; this is a film about the people as they really are. Only Billy Bob could make this film, and I am thrilled that he did.
Special Features List
- Behind-the-Scenes Special
- Feature Commentary
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
- The Return of Karl