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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Filmmaking > Comedy > Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party (Comedy)

Stephen Tobolowsky’s Birthday Party

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: B     Film: B

 

 

Slowly, you notice him in all kinds of supporting roles.  In the beginning, he was often confused with the late, great character actor J.T. Walsh.  After some TV appearances, he started to surface in films like Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs, Mississippi Burning, Great Balls Of Fire!, the underrated In Country and ever-impressive The Grifters.  Before you knew it, Stephen Tobolowsky was everywhere.  Whether comic relief, evil villain or oddball, Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise, Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct and Christopher Nolan’s Memento followed among the dozens and dozens of appearances.  With all that, he must have some stories to tell, and that is what we get in the hilarious, witty documentary Stephen Tobolowsky’s Birthday Party.

 

The camera has an interesting relationship with him.  He is not the dashing leading man, a flamboyant flashy presence or going out of his way to be otherwise distinctive.  There is just something within his personality that is just waiting to happen and that kind of subdued energy is perfect for the acting business.  Literally celebrating his birthday, either with friends or alone with the camera, hilarious story after unbelievable story is told.  When it is about filmmaking, it really throws the big budget prestige and giant production status out the window when things go bad.  It also helps that he is a storyteller with exceptional timing, the kind that has made him one of the top character actors in the business today.

 

The film lasts about 90 minutes and it could have been a mini-series that went on for nine hours, but maybe they were afraid people would sue for laughing themselves sick.  However, the other humor comes form the legacy of amazing work and the more you appreciate that, the better it gets.  Even if you could care less about film or TV, funny is funny and Stephen Tobolowsky’s Birthday Party has that in abundance.  That makes it easily one of the best comedy DVDs of the year!

 

The 16 X 9/1.78 X 1 image is basically a digitally shot documentary and has few clips to offer of anything, though there are stills.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound is a surprisingly weak stereo, so be careful about how loud you play this back and how you switch from this to other audio sources.  The only extra is a set of extra conversations that add up to the length of the feature, all of which are more great stories.  Don’t miss this one, especially of you are a film fan and/or like big laughs.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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