Blu-Ray Review: Phenomenon

A film that is better than it looked, but not as good as it could have been, Phenomenon reveals itself early on as an entertaining diversion and not much more.  In telling the story of George Malley, an everyman imbued with seemingly supernatural powers on his 37th birthday, screenwriter Gerald Dipego keeps things down-to-Earth and simple rather than pursuing any big ideas.  There is a enjoyable sense of discovery as George explores his newfound abilities, including enhanced intelligence, telekinesis, and even the ability to predict earthquakes.  However, the film never really takes off with it’s premise, keeping things mostly grounded in it’s smalltown ways.

The cast does a great job all around, including John Travolta as George, Robert Duvall as the town physician, and Forest Whitaker as George’s best friend Nate.  Rounding out the cast as Kyra Sedgwick as potential love interest, Lace.  While there is an undercurrent of sentimentality to the proceedings, the actors give their all in an attempt to bring emotional truth to the circumstances.  This is not a film for the cynical as there is a lot of weepy melodrama and feel-good small town character growth.  However, the film is never boring and the characters are compelling.

I have to give credit to the filmmakers for not making the source of George’s powers a focus of the story.  We sort of get an explanation, but not really.  What’s important is that it happened, not how it happened.  This is a film about the way people would react in a situation like this, not the mystery behind it.  There is a satisfying ending, but this isn’t the type of movie where they want you to spend the whole film trying to figure it out.

Unfortunately, the Blu-Ray release completely shortchanges the audience in regards to extras.  The film looks decent, if not a little grainy.  However, the extras are practically non-existant.  There is the original trailer, and that’s it.  I understand that as studios start digging into some of their lesser known backlog of releases, they might not have original content to include, but I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t find anything.  If nothing else, they could have brought some of the original cast or crew together for a commentary track.  As is, all that’s included beyond the trailer, is the film itself.

I really did enjoy this movie.  It’s not going to stick with anybody for any great amount of time, but it’s endearing and entertaining.  I wish this release had more material to recommend a purchase, but as is, this is  fun way to kill an evening and nothing more.

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