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  • Jeff Beck

Drive-Away Dolls: A Juvenile Comedy Lacking in Laughs (Blu-ray)


The Film:


Just a few years ago, the beloved Coen Brothers announced that they were going to make their own separate features for the first time in their distinguished careers. Joel Coen went off and made a brilliant adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Tragedy of Macbeth" that garnered massive acclaim and several award nominations, including an Oscar nod for Denzel Washington. For his own project, Ethan chose to team up with his wife & frequent collaborator Tricia Cooke to go in a completely different direction by making a raunchy comedy by the name of "Drive-Away Dolls," which they had actually been working on since the early 2000s. Would they be able to find the same level of success that Joel did in this intriguing separation experiment?


As the film opens, we witness the murder of a man named Santos (Pedro Pascal), who had what appears to be an important briefcase in his possession. Meanwhile, we meet Jamie (Margaret Qualley), who has recently had a falling out with her girlfriend and subsequently gets kicked out of her apartment. When she finds out that her friend Marian (Geraldine Viswanathan) is going on a road trip to Tallahassee, she decides to come along, leading them to arrange a drive-away car for the journey. However, they are accidentally given a car meant for someone else, who happen to be a group of criminals transporting cargo to the same destination. Not knowing anything of the mistake, Jamie & Marian begin their trip, unaware that they're now being pursued by some very dangerous people.


Ethan Coen is obviously no stranger to comedy, having collaborated on several of them with his brother Joel over the course of the last few decades, but the kind they would make tended to be of a darker, and sometimes just slightly silly, nature. That is to say, they weren't exactly the kind that you would call "raunchy," like his new solo outing. In that sense, like his brother, he's attempting to stretch his filmmaking talent into an area that he hasn't really explored before, and seeing if he can make a comedy that leaves subtlety behind while trying to earn laughs with a different brand of humor.


On that note, it's sad to have to say that the humor of "Drive-Away Dolls" simply doesn't work. It desperately tries to derive laughs from practically non-stop sex jokes throughout its brief 80 minutes, coming across as remarkably juvenile in the process, and merely compounding the problem when it's revealed what the secret, plot-driving items in the briefcase are. That is to say, the level of humor is rather cringe-worthy, and made even worse by the film trying too hard to make you laugh, despite the material obviously not being funny. After being in the planning stages for around 20 years, you would think that that's the one element they would make sure was working exceedingly well before proceeding, but unfortunately it would appear that they didn't get enough notes on the script before production began, pretty much sealing its fate from the start.


It's always interesting to see a filmmaker venture out of their comfort zone to try something new. Such an experiment can lead to something quite amazing, like Joel Coen's incredible foray into the realm of Shakespeare, but it can also reveal areas that are perhaps best left alone by that filmmaker, which sadly ends up being the case with Ethan Coen & "Drive-Away Dolls." However, despite the film doing rather poorly at the box office and with critics, he's not giving up, and is charging forward with another film in the same vein. One can only hope that he and his co-author will see where they went wrong here, and put a lot more time into polishing the screenplay for their next outing before going forward, or else it'll simply end up being a very hard case of deja vu.


Video/Audio:


"Drive-Away Dolls" comes to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of decent quality, or to put it more accurately, the quality of which the film is supposed to look. It was shot in a more washed-out, desaturated manner to specifically give it the aesthetic of a B-movie, and in that regard, the image appears just right, while the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack does a great job of giving you all of the dialogue & music in excellent quality. Overall, Focus & Universal have done a fine job of making the film look & sound exactly how it should for the type of film it's trying to be.


Special Features:


The Drive-Away Gang (3 Minutes): A very brief featurette featuring some quick soundbites from the cast & crew.


Drive-Away Dolls: An Ethan and Tricia Project (3 Minutes): Another very brief featurette in which Ethan Coen and Tricia Cooke discuss the film.


Road Trip Essentials (1 Minute): An extremely brief, pointless featurette that has the stars listing what to bring on a road trip.


Conclusion:


"Drive-Away Dolls" is a rather unfortunate misfire for director/co-writer Ethan Coen, who opted to make this his first solo directing project. Featuring a juvenile, cringe-worthy level of humor that will merely have you rolling your eyes throughout its mercifully-brief 80-minute runtime, it tries far too hard to make you laugh, and garners very few results in the process, ultimately making this a comedy that simply tests the patience of its audience.


Score: 2/5


Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.


Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.



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