Meiert Avis’ new romantic comedy-drama Undiscovered has been turning up on more than a few worst lists for 2005, and while that may be an unfair assessment, as just about every film out this year could have made it onto the same list, it’s still no picnic. Some of the numbers are hip enough, and the two lead actors deliver likeable, though poorly written performances. However, Ashlee Simpson’s performance drives it all down into the mud and solidifies her standing as not just the least talented Simpson daughter, but also one of the most obnoxious wretches, who dares call herself a celebrity.
While anyone who’s ever created anything can certainly relate to the noble Luke Falcon in his efforts to make it big on his own terms, no viewer can get past the egotistical pseudo-charms of Simpson, whose very performance seeks selfish standing as Undiscovered‘s novelty act. I didn’t want to turn this into an Ashlee bash-fest, but she makes it too darn easy, and clouds the quality of what otherwise may have been a decent romantic comedy-drama. She spends all of her too-freely-given screen time shooting frequent looks to the camera and smiling a big stupid grin as if she’s flirting with us. While Jessica may be somewhat charming and physically attractive (jury’s still out), Ashlee falls far short of what could be construed as her sister’s qualities, and seems like she’s doing her best stupid impersonation. And while she certainly makes a convincing idiot, it’s her sister’s act, and she needs to find one of her own. Of course, when the only reason she’s even succeeded depends on the existence of her sister, originality may be a hard attribute to come by.
If you can get past her, you might enjoy Undiscovered. My guess is, you can’t.
The video presentation is in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and suffers more from directorial style than a shoddy transfer. Avis makes bad decisions with the way he films Undiscovered, utilizing far too many out-of-focus shots. He’s not curing polio here. He’s just making a romantic comedy, and while the out-of-focus bits could be considered style, it makes for an annoying viewing experience, and should have been immediately rethought in the editing room. The colors are cloudy and dark, and for an upbeat romantic comedy, it all seems rather depressing.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 presentations both offer strong mixes with deep bass and pronounced dialogue levels, but the 5.1 obviously offers more variety for background noise, in particular, scenes where Avis uses his locations to maximum effect. An example: the skateboarding bulldog scene early on in the film, where Falcon’s dog takes off down a crowded Los Angeles street in one of the most amazing stupid pet tricks I’ve ever seen.
Your enjoyment of the bonus material will probably depend on how well you like the film itself. There are music videos, a making-of featurette, trailers, audio commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, and production stills. I enjoyed the audio commentary, as I usually do, while Avis used good judgment in removing the deleted scenes from the final cut. Had they not been included on the disc – well, that wouldn’t have been such a bad thing.
Undiscovered will most likely be a hit with high school girls, as the young cast is either charming or popular. I use “popular” for Ashlee; “charming” for the rest. And truthfully, it’s not the worst film of 2005. Those films should be reserved for Hollywood drivel with larger budgets and bigger stars – perhaps some of the candidates for the Academy’s Best Picture this year. But it suffers greatly from the novice performance of a Simpson that doesn’t know what she’s doing, and is seemingly proud of it. Though the special edition DVD is a good package if you’re into it, I’d rather pass. Should Avis ever re-film all of Ashlee’s scenes with a different actor in the role, then pull a George Lucas, I may change my mind. Till then? Nah.