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Archive for Thursday, July 21, 2005

No knockout

Million Dollar Baby’ delivers punch to the gut with lightweight extras

July 21, 2005

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"Million Dollar Baby" is one of those rare films that appeal to moviegoers of almost any taste. It's artfully made without being too pretentious and a tear-jerker that isn't saturated by schmaltz.

In other words, Clint Eastwood's boxing drama - which won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture - makes an ideal addition to almost any DVD library. The only disappointment - and here comes the punch in the gut - is the surprising lack of extras that accompany the film.

Warner Bros. has released "Million Dollar Baby" (PG-13) in two forms: as a two-disc edition and a three-disc deluxe version, which comes with a CD of Eastwood's score. Aside from that CD, there's no difference between the two sets. In both cases, the second disc is devoted to bonus material, but, sadly, that includes only three featurettes, which collectively can be watched in about an hour's time. The extras easily could have fit on one DVD; relegating them to a second misleadingly suggests that this release is more robust than it is.

Of the three featurettes, "The Producers: Round 15" provides the most nitty-gritty look at how F.X. O'Toole's short stories were transferred from page to script to screen. "Born to Fight," a 20-minute documentary that includes a revealing interview with cast member and real-life boxer Lucia Rijker, also offers some engaging moments. As for "James Lipton Takes on Three" - a discussion among the "Behind the Actor's Studio" host and stars Eastwood, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman - it plays much like an episode of Lipton's show, veering from informative one moment to pretentious the next. At least Lipton doesn't ask them to name their favorite curse word.


Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) works out in the gym run by boxing trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) in 2004's "Million Dollar Baby." The Oscar-winning film was released on DVD this month.

Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) works out in the gym run by boxing trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) in 2004's "Million Dollar Baby." The Oscar-winning film was released on DVD this month.

The most disappointing thing about the "Million Dollar Baby" extras, though, is what's missing. A commentary track, deleted scenes, a documentary about the world of female boxing: Any of those would have made a welcome addition to this DVD. Instead, what you get is a knockout movie accompanied by extras that barely put up a fight.

Most efficient Eastwood bonus: Eastwood has a reputation for being a no-nonsense filmmaker. That image is maintained during "The Producers" doc, in which screenwriter Paul Haggis (who also wrote and directed "Crash") notes that Eastwood shot "Baby" based on the script's first draft, and producer Tom Rosenberg says there was "not one minute of overtime ever" during the film's 38-day shoot.

Most interesting bit of trivia: While I'm on the subject of Eastwood ... he's also known for easing actors into a scene rather than shouting "Action!" During the Lipton interview, Swank reveals, and Eastwood confirms, that this habit partially comes from the director's background in Westerns. Shouting "Action!" made any actor sitting on a horse tense up, which in turn agitated the animals. And now you know the rest of the story.

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