Aaron Jacob Estes’ film Mean Creek has been favorably compared to films like River’s Edge and in a sense, Lord of the Flies, for obvious reasons, and that’s not a bad thing. Written and directed by Estes, the film begins with Sam (Rory Culkin, Signs), who “borrows” a camcorder owned by George (Josh Peck, Spun), and gets beaten up for it. Sam’s brother Rocky (Trevor Morgan, The Patriot) steps in as the protective, bigger brother and does a little scheming.>
Rocky decides to ask his friends Clyde (Ryan Kelley, Stolen Summer) and Marty (Scott Mechlowitz, EuroTrip) for help in leveling a bit of justice on George, so they decide to take George on a trip down a river with Sam and his “girlfriend” Millie (Carly Schroeder, The Lizzie McGuire Movie). You can kinda see the ending coming, but what results is an interesting character study in the choices that they make and what they decide to do makes for very interesting viewing.
The movie made some noise on the Festival circuits last year, and the issues that the cast deals with (considering that no one has graduated high school in the film) really impresses you and how they handle it. That is the main action in the film, it’s the character’s interactions with George and their opinions of him. Dismissing the Culkin factor in the film should be easy, as Rory has built a decent filmography, and this film enhances it.
One of the cool things about reviewing movies for the site is that you get to write about movies you’ve heard about and forget either if the movie theater is too far or if you forget ever time you go to Blockbuster. It still surprises me that an independent film would even have a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and Mean Creek sounds very good on DVD, and the river trip is proof of it, with a lot of surround effects and an active soundtrack.
The movie was mostly shot with handheld cameras and looks excellent for a low budget film, the black levels and outstanding, and yet the blues and greens of Oregon are reproduced vividly with minimal edge enhancement during the film. If you gave this crew some money, I think you’d probably get a reference quality DVD out of the process.
Paramount hasn’t added too many extras on this disc, but the largest one is a commentary track with Estes, editor Madeline Gavin, cinematographer Sharone Meir, and Peck, Kelley, Morgan and Schroeder. The track is pretty jovial and lively, with a lot of joking around, and Morgan sounds an awful lot like a young Michael Madsen for one reason or another. The tone changes when the movie does, and there are some gaps of silence as a result, but overall it’s a decent track. Along with a small storyboard gallery of 11 stills and 6 trailers (none of which are for the film itself), there’s nothing after that.
Mean Creek was a commercially underrated film that does a good job of portraying moral dilemmas faced by group of young people very well on DVD. The commentary is entertaining and even enhances the film experience, and is worth checking out.
Special Features List
- Director and Cast Commentary