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I read a forum thread not long ago bemoaning movie critics for turning their noses up at anything not containing social, political or dramatic significance. In other words, unless it’s perceived to be important, it’s no good. It went on to crave a more realistic approach to certain films, the ones that are out to purely entertain rather than provide any kind of deep-seated world importance.

This type of attitude may have filtered down to the lower budget films coming out of Hollywood. To try and capture an audience and blend in with the accepted themes and ideas presented in the more critically acclaimed films, movies with not so much a message as a bit of an escape from the real world are now trying to “get a little serious”. Blow Dry may well be a victim of exactly that.

Movie
Any film about the National Hairdressing Championships has to be a comedy. But when you throw in a woman dying of cancer, a divorcee and some serious “trust” issues you’ve got to question which piece of the pie the movie is after.

Blow Dry (Rental)

The town of Keighley, England is host to the hairdressing championships, which no one seems at all enthusiastic about until a local salon decides to join the race. The mayor is ecstatic but the rest of the town takes a little winning over. Heading up the hometown charge is cancer victim Shelley (Natasha Richardson), who ran off with her husband’s model Sandra (Australia’s own Rachel Griffiths). Shelley’s now ex-hubby (Alan Rickman) wants nothing to do with the both of them, preferring to train his young son Brian (Josh Hartnett) in the art of scissorwork. With a little persuasion the father-son duo decide to jump on board and have a crack at the tournament.

Standing in their way is the snooty Ray (Bill Nighy) and his Robertson Hair Salon. His daughter Christina (Rachel Leigh Cook) is also training to become a stylist but can’t quite get the hang of it early on. And things are made even worse when chemistry starts to develop between Christina and the young man from “the enemy”. You can predict where things go from there.

Amongst all the silliness and hammed-up bravado there’s actually a hell of a lot of seriousness going on. Seemingly an attempt to provide a bit of weight to the story the whole cancer-stricken hairdresser angle is irrelevant in the scheme of things. Parallels can be drawn between Blow Dry and 1999’s Drop Dead Gorgeous but the former loses its way by not being ambitious enough to explore the farcical nature of the National Hairdressing Championships. We see glimpses of cleverness, such as the scissor tattoo on the sole of Alan Rickman’s foot, the pretentiousness of some of the stylists and the jazzed up nature of the competition, but these could have all been explored further instead of trying to provide a serious sub-plot for the characters.

In all you won’t have wasted your time by watching the film. It’s definitely a bit of fun and there’s more than a few chuckles dotted along the way. Perhaps if the script had called for out-and-out comedy instead of a mixture of drama and a little wit then the enjoyment factor would have been significantly raised. But the cast do a good job with the material they’re given, particularly Rickman and Griffiths who are given perhaps the most workable characters in the film. Hartnett, however, makes a laughable attempt at a British accent, which doesn’t come as a surprise at all.

Blow Dry (Rental)

The short running time means you won’t lose concentration at all and the outrageous nature of some of the situations will definitely keep you interested. If you can bear a few tears for no real reason and an obvious attempt to at least cover some serious themes then you’ll have yourself a good time.

Video
For a lower budget, under-hyped film such as this one it comes as no surprise that the transfer isn’t up there with the best of them. Presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 the bright colours of the competition aren’t rendered as well as one might come to expect from our favourite format. Blacks aren’t all that deep, though there’s very little going on at night during the film, and there is a moderate amount of grain to be seen throughout. Nevertheless, sharpness is still quite good and only a few minor specks mar what is a relatively clean print. Certainly not the best video transfer going around but you can live with it and try to enjoy the story.

Audio
Included on the disc is a gallant Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, which sadly is a little lacking in parts due largely to the talkative nature of the script. Most of the action is placed squarely in the front speakers with only a few minor instances of movement across the stage. The music occasionally pops up in the rears but for the most part you won’t hear much coming from behind. The most interesting thing about this soundtrack is that the dialogue seems sometimes drowned out by the music, making some of the conversations a little hard to hear, regardless of the British accents. This hasn’t happened to a new release for quite a while, but hopefully it’s only a once off. On the whole there’s not much to say about this soundtrack, which is basically serviceable with a few minor problems.

Extras
Someone took to the extras section with some scissors because all we’re left with is the theatrical trailer. It’s not a very good one, either so don’t get all that excited by its presence. Um, yeah. That’s it.

Blow Dry (Rental)

Overall
As a straight-to-DVD release the film certainly has a few things going for it and may well take some people by surprise. But the whole calamitous world of hairdressing could’ve really been pushed to the limit with this film instead of playing the emotional angle so often. The video and audio are indifferent and there’s only a theatrical trailer in addition to the movie, so it’s hard to say whether there’s really all that much value in the disc.


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