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Blu-ray Review: Election (1999)

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What do you get when you cross a high school presidential election with an overachieving teenager and an interfering teacher? Well, besides a guaranteed lawsuit, you get one funny and great movie. Toss in a few superstars and you have a blockbuster, or what should be one, for the teen demographic. Election fits this bill perfectly, and, it has the hilarity that you expect from this sort of set up. Starring Reese Witherspoon as the overachieving, pompous, and arrogant candidate Tracy Flick, Election is a great teen-comedy that takes the genre to new heights. Chris Klein plays her competition, Paul Metzler, who is an all-American quarterback from a rich family but with a heart of gold. The cast is rounded out by Matthew Broderick, who plays Jim McAllister, a beloved teacher who just gets in a little over his head.

Election tells the story of a typical high school presidential election, just with a slight twist. You have the usual prissy girl, running simply for the esteem. Then you have the typical popular dude, who is running simply because everybody likes him. Lastly, you have the stereotypical outcast, who is running just to mess with the system. Election takes these three main characters and simply plays with them, pitting them against each other in odder and odder situation. Using these amusing moments to advance the story line, Election rarely seems to lag or fall behind.

Election also tells the story of Jim McAllister, a teacher who just was not thinking well. From scamming an election to cheating on his wife, Jim simply is not ready for his role in life. The movie follows his digression a from loved and honest teacher, you know, the type that are way too dedicated, to his fall and divorce.

While Broderick did a great job of playing McAllister, the star of the movie has to be Witherspoon. Playing the preppy candidate who will do anything (literally) to achieve victory, Witherspoon actually draws us into her character and plays Tracy convincingly. With girl-next-door looks, and a brain to envy, this girl can capture you and then spit you out half the man that you were. Witherspoon plays such a convincing character that you actually are surprised when she starts to cuss (granted, it is in a fantasy), even though you have seen it before. This immersion into a character, and the investment it draws from the audience, is evidence of a great acting job.

While Election is not one of the great movies of all time, it is a great movie on its own. The pacing is good and the script is to die for. There is very little that detracts from the actual movie, and I believe that it will actually make you laugh out loud. I highly recommend renting or buying this movie simply to watch it.

Moving on to the technical aspects, Election is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio which makes it a decent widescreen. The film is decently clear, and the transitions are quick and accurate, but there are a few remaining ghosts from the previous versions of the film that hinders its HD quality. Watching it on my TV, I was able to see some of the problems that were inherent in film at that time. The transfer from SD to HD, in this case, was not done as well as it could have been.

With that in mind, however, the film was of good quality. The colors were vibrant and looked especially good on all of the posters that covered the school during the campaign. All of these signs seemed to jump out at you, they were that bright. The black levels were decent throughout most of the film, but near the end, for some reason, they seemed to become sub-par and not really what I have come to expect from HD. While this transfer was nowhere near as good as I have seen before, it wasn't as bad as it could be. It seemed to be an average transfer, and shouldn't be noticeable to anybody using 720P or less.

As with most Blu-ray movies, sound is presented in Dolby TrueHD. Unlike most Blu-rays, however, the sound is available only in 5.0, not the normal 5.1. While this was abnormal, it was not that noticeable as my PS3 decided that it was going to output in 5.1 anyway. The overall sound quality was average, though the mixing was decent. You rarely lost any dialog or important sounds, which is pretty good. Additionally, you could hear background noises from classrooms during the movie (these were actual classes with real teachers and students), which added to the realism. While the sound was slightly front heavy, and seemed as though it would be better in 2.0, it was of decent quality.

While the overall quality of Election is good and the movie is great, it comes with only one extra, and that is a director's commentary. I have always hated these commentaries and believe that they should be removed from all movies in the future. With the exception of the sing-along commentary from Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog, none of them have ever been worth my time. Extras are highly important on DVDs and BDs these days, and lacking them greatly harmed the value of this movie.

Overall, I believe that Election is a good movie to add to your collection if you like teen comedies. The movie is funny and the script is perfect. I truly believe that most teenagers will like this movie and it would be a perfect gift for them. It also is a great gift for college kids, as most of my friends loved it as well. Save for the fact that it is lacking in extras, the Blu-ray is a good buy for its price.

Movie: 4/5 – I enjoyed the movie immensely and think that the script is amazing
Film Quality: 3/5 – Ghosting effects and sub-par black levels harmed this score
Sound Quality: 3.5/5 – Decent mixing and good quality
Extras: 1/5 – It has commentary (whoop-di-doo) and nothing else
Final: 3.5/5 – A good movie for any teen or college student

Election is rated R for strong sexuality, sex-related dialog and language, and a scene of drug abuse.

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About Robert M. Barga