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Mystery Date (Blu-ray Review)

Mystery-DateAcademy Award nominee Ethan Hawke (Best Actor, Training Day; Best Supporting Actor, Boyhood) headlines an ensemble cast in the mystery-comedy Mystery Date.  With Murphy’s Law in full swing, romance will take a back seat to screwball comic hijinks in the romantic comedy Mystery Date directed by Jonathan Wacks (Powwow Highway) from a screenplay by Parker Bennett and Terry Runté.  Mystery Date co-stars Fisher Stevens (Short Circuit), BD Wong (TV’s Law & Order: SVU) and Ian Black (The Journey of Natty Gann).

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Head-over-heels in love with next-door neighbor Geena Matthews, Tom McHugh finds himself unable to even hold a conversation when in her presence. With some coaching from his older brother Craig, Tom is all but assured that his date with Geena will be smooth sailing – until he discovers a body in the trunk of Craig’s car.

I was a newbie with Mystery Date, having not thought I’d ever even heard of this movie before.  That is, until I saw the VHS cover for it and then yeah, that looked familiar.  Even this being my first time, the film follows a very familiar formula.  This is very much that kind of Adventures In Babysitting type of movie that hit in the 80s and still made its rounds to the 90s (And still today even).  Basically you take a teen and send on a “normal, boring evening” or something making a dream come true…but winds up being a wild night of insane characters and events that come along the way.

Mystery Date has the formula down, it just can’t seem capitalize on anything.  Maybe its crazy events aren’t silly enough.  Some of them are just too dangerous to warrant laughs, even when the film is trying to bolster them from you.  This is a teen comedy that normally I would find myself forgiving a lot of its faults and “guilty pleasuring”, but it wasn’t working.  I really wanted to like you, but I don’t think we’ll be going on a second date.

Its not a fault of our two leads.  Ethan Hawke is his usual self here, so if you’re a fan, you’re there already.  And Teri Polo is quite good at not just being “the hot girl” even if its what its supposed to be and she’s there for.  They share some chemistry, Hawke is kind of a creeper for her (But that’s just how things were in these movies back then), and you really fear for her security later on.  They’re the highlight, which is a good thing since we follow them the entire movie.  Fisher Stevens is also solid her in a supporting role.

Its not to say Mystery Date was bad or a complete waste of time.  The problem is that its super vanilla and average.  Another thing is that it needed to put some more fun and bigger laughs into the mix.  The film gets serious, but not in too much a fresh or engaging way.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Mystery Date comes to Blu-ray in a transfer that is decent and mostly reflective of the movies released on the format during the era it came out in.  Coloring and detail are solid while the image has as much sharpness it can without looking bad.  There’s a little bit a murkiness on it, but that could be within the aesthetic and part of the source.

Depth:  Rather good depth work here.  Everything is free in its spacing and movements and smooth and fluid.

Black Levels:  Blacks are solid, with a hint of being murky at times.  Some minor detail is lost in heavy shading, but otherwise its all right.

Color Reproduction:  Colors have both a sense of pop and restraint.  Right from the opening credits you can see that this is during that wild safari-like time between the 1980s stylings melding into the early 1990s.  However, its never out of control and nothing bleeds.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistent appearance throughout.  There is some smoothness apparent at times.  Facial details fare much better in close-ups.

Noise/Artifacts:  Grain and some specs/dirt

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Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics:  Mystery Date’s 2.0 audio mix sounds a little more than just fine.  Its got a track that sounds of the era its from, featuring a good blend of its score, vocals and effects.  Sometimes the music gets a bit louder, but its effecting and works in the heat of the scene.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue sounds clean and clear, being just a hair low in the mix.

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Trailer (HD, 1:45) 

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Mystery Date is a film I really wanted to like, but just found myself more bored than anything with it.  It has a formula that usually leads to decent success, but here that was just average at best when things were on.  The Blu-ray looks and sounds nice.  There are no extras, which is a big bummer and makes for a tough sell at a higher price point.  But, if you’re a fan of this niche teen comedy, this is the best its going to get get.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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