Releasing Studio: Sony Pictures
Disc/Transfer Specifications: 2.39:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Director: Will Gluck
Starring Cast: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis
Let me get this out of the way right now – I thought Mila Kunis was a cute piece of tail in Forgetting Sara Marshall with those flirtatious smiles and facial gestures…but she looks really delicious in Friends With Benefits. There’s still something that’s a bit “off” about this chick – she plays the free-spirited weirdo that likes to mess with guys’ heads in all her films too well, and this carries over to Will Gluck’s latest take on the current rage of infidelity amongst singles; I don’t know what it is…those kinda creepy big eyes of hers or what, but I wouldn’t date this twit in real life just based on these personality traits being portrayed.
Justin Timberlake on the other hand? What? Where did they find him for this role? Luckily, he doesn’t bomb as badly as some other singers-turned-actors a la the gorgeous but clumsy Mariah Carrey whose performance in Glitter is enough to make you hide in a bear cave for a couple of years hoping the HDTV revolution passes you by. Here’s the recipe: Take the world’s most lovable want-to-be-gangster-performer (outside of Mr. 8 Mile himself), throw him into a plot that steals everything but the kitchen sink from No Strings Attached and add romantic, raunchy overtones a la every film that has come out in this genre in the last five years. You know what? The end result wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be (after having to sit through No Strings Attached which, for me, was only worth it to keep my eyes glued to Natalie Portman’s behind) and my wife actually wants to buy this on Blu-ray. I have to admit, we were cracking up nearly from beginning to end.
Timberlake’s acting wasn’t actually that bad, either – he doesn’t ham it up with outrageous overacting or thick, syrupy “wannabe rapper” dialogue delivery or the like (think Ice-T when he stars in things like New Jack City). The premise of the story has Timberlake’s character as some hot shot L.A. designer who is offered a job at GQ magazine in New York through corporate head hunter Kunis. The position would of course pay more than what he’s doing in L.A., but it requires relocating to the Big Apple, where he first comes into contact with his head hunting babe at Kennedy Airport as he’s attempting to get his luggage from the conveyer belt (she’s there to pick him up and escort him to the GQ interview). Kunis looks amazing in this scene, wearing a skimpy black miniskirt and ridiculously high stilettos; the problem is, she’s just so annoying. Of course, what do you think ensues? Timberlake takes the job in New York, which leads to his romantic interest in Kunis – they make a pact to be “friends with benefits” and most of the film depicts the two of them in bed any opportunity they get (remember No Strings Attached?). A couple more characters are introduced, mainly Timberlake’s character’s senile nutbag of a father and Kunis’ likewise off-the-wall mother who comes to stay with her. Their relationship gets to the point that Timberlake’s character asks Kunis’ to come to L.A. with him over Fourth of July weekend to see his family. All kinds of hijinks unfold, as we learn of his father’s tendency to remove his pants and talk in riddles because of the advanced Alzheimer’s as well as a secret she overhears regarding how Timberlake really feels about her. Racing back to New York because her “feelings were hurt,” Kunis turns the cold shoulder, like all these twats do in these films, making Timberlake chase after her. The two of them discover the true feelings for one another, yadda yadda yadda, you know how this goes…
But in all fairness, Friends With Benefits was side-splittingly funny in many areas – the simulated lovemaking sequences in particular when the two of them are flash-firing commentary at each other even during...ummmm..."other kinds" of exchange was hysterical. I would definitely recommend a rental at least.
VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
Sony’s somewhat oddly-framed 2.39:1 widescreen transfer on this Blu-ray looked absolutely jaw-dropping – some sequences were so realistically rendered, the characters sometimes appeared to be bathed in a digital light of some kind, nearly CGI-created. Outdoor sequences were jaw-dropping in contrast and color, although the greens of New York City foliage and grass were ridiculously amped up towards the neon direction, making them come off unrealistic in that sense. That neon-ish approach was evident in many sequences, as though the green from the grass in certain shots kind of “bled” into surrounding characters and background elements.
But all in all, this was a stunning transfer on Blu-ray, ripe and bursting with detail, cleanliness, a rich color gamut and noise-free shadow detail, easily besting some of the last BD titles I sampled.
AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
Nothing really going on with Friends With Benefits’ DTS-HD Master Audio track, which is pretty much wasted across the front soundstage – from what I could detect, most of the information was delivered strictly from the center channel, and I didn’t recall any surround activity worth noting. The previews for upcoming releases before the feature began, however….wow. Rendered in lossy Dolby Digital audio, these trailers absolutely took my house down with growling, rumbling and pounding LFE and an overall aggressive nature that I wish every feature film exhibited. One trailer in particular, for the Zoe Saldana spy thriller Columbiana, exhibited ridiculous wallops of bass that required me to bring my master volume way down or risk something flying off my walls. I cannot say the same for Friends With Benefits’ audio mix.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATIONS:
A pretty funny comedy – give it a rental spin. I realize it has Justin Timberlake in it, but the dialogue is pretty snappy and the hanky panky sequences are outrageous. My wife wants to buy this, but your mileage, as always, will vary.
Stay tuned, friends, as I will be reviewing Cowboys & Aliens and some other new titles soon!