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DVD Review: Nobel Son

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In Nobel Son, Bryan Greenberg plays Barkley, the son of Eli Michaelson (Alan Rickman), a brilliant professor. The two have, at best, a strained relationship. On the day Eli is to receive the Nobel Prize, Barkley is kidnapped and ransomed to his father for the prize money by Thaddeus (Shawn Hatosy), who may or may not be Eli’s bastard son.

During the kidnapping a strange thing occurs: Barkley and Thaddeus start to bond and Barkley decides to help his pseudo-brother in return for a cut of the ransom. Once the ransom is paid and Barkley stashes his cut he returns home. But Detective Max Mariner  (Bill Pullman) is suspicious that the kidnapping wasn’t exactly what it seems and is sniffing around, plus he has a relationship with Sarah Michaelson (Mary Steenburgen), Eli's wife, that’s less than innocent.

Things get stranger when Thaddeus rents out the Michaelsons' guest house with his girlfriend City Hall (Eliza Dushku), who is insane but beautiful and just happens to be Barkley’s one night stand who helped set up Barkley to get kidnapped.

Unfortunately the would-be suspense film lacks suspense and plausibility as well. The film attempts to take several genres (comedy, suspense, mystery, drama) and blend them together but does so unsuccessfully as the end result is less than satisfying. That said, Rickman is excellent as the arrogant, narcissistic, and egotistic professor. Greenberg is likable as the son who wants to make his father proud, but do it his way not his father’s, and Dushku again plays unstable very well as she has in the past. Plus there are supporting roles filled by Danny DeVito, Lindy Booth, Ted Danson, and Ernie Hudson; with such a cast this should have been a hit but the problem isn’t the cast, it’s the script.

The extras on Nobel Son are three short deleted scenes, which are more trimmed scenes than actual deleted scenes and don’t do anything to further the plot. These come with an optional commentary by director/screenwriter Randall Miller and screenwriter Jody Savin. There’s a 13 minute featurette which is your basic behind the scenes feature with comments from cast and crew. The main extra on the Nobel Son DVD is a commentary from writer/director Randall Miller, writer Jody Savin, cinematographer Mike Ozier, and actors Bryan Greenberg and Eliza Dushku. Based on the commentary, everyone involved enjoyed working on the film. The feature lets you in on behind the scenes stories and what was going on during filming.

With the amount of talent in this film, it should be better than what we get, but maybe that’s why it sat on the shelf for three years before its release. It did abysmally in theaters and unless you’re a major fan of Dushku, Greenberg or Rickman, it doesn’t offer much other than a way of passing 90 minutes.

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