• Don't Think Twice

    Released by: Universal Studios
    Released on: December 6, 2016
    Writer/Director: Mike Birbiglia
    Cast: Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Birbiglia, Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci, Tami Sagher, Emily Skeggs. Chris Gethard
    Year: 2016
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    The Movie:

    Jack (Keegan-Michael Key) and Samantha (Gillian Jacobs) are a loving thirtyish (fortyish?) couple working to hit the big time as professional comedians. They perform together regularly in a small, dumpy New York City venue as part of an improv group called The Commune. Their co-stars include leader Miles (Mike Birbiglia), wannabe writer Allison (Kate Micucci), insecure geeky guy Bill (Chris Gethard), and rich kid Lindsay (Tami Sagher). Right before a performance one night, they get word that scouts from iconic variety show Weekend Live (a not-even-thinly-disguised SNL) are in the audience. The performers are, of course, thrilled at the "big break" potential of the visit, especially Miles (who had a near-miss "thanks but no thanks" audition with the show's producers some years before).

    Things go well, and the performance ends with the troupe's members buzzing and optimistic. Shortly thereafter, Jack gets a call from a Weekend Live producer inviting him and Sam in for back-to-back auditions. When the big day arrives, Sam chickens out and doesn't show. Jack, on the other hand, knocks it out of the park and is hired as a Weekend Live regular, something he quickly learns isn't as much fun as he thought it would be. For one thing, the show's producer makes it obvious that he's expected to be constantly brilliant if he wants to keep his new job. At the same time, his fellow Communers take to hounding him for auditions with his new bosses, something Jack doesn't have the clout to arrange. Commune performances become better-attended but also increasingly awkward as the crowds make it clear that they're pretty much there to see Jack do his signature character from the show, a Stepin Fetchit-style movie-house ticket taker.

    It all reaches a head one Saturday night at the Commune's regular Weekend Live TV viewing get-together, when the troupe is treated to a skit that Jack has ripped off verbatim from one of their own performances. Enraged, they head downtown and crash the broadcast's after-party at an upscale bar. Miles punches Jack in the face and is shown the door. He's followed outside by Bill, Lindsay, Allison, and Sam—the last of whom chooses just that moment to announce that she, too, has been hired by the show.

    You'll see some familiar faces in Don't Think Twice, most notably that of Keegan-Michael Key (fresh here from his endearingly goofy turn as the George Michael-obsessed faux-gangsta in Peter Atencio's kidnapped-kitty action-comedy Keanu). There's also "Big Bang Theory" alumnus Kate Micucci and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it turn from "Three's Company's" Richard (Larry) Kline. Some of the rest of the cast is not so familiar, but you'll probably feel like they are before it's all done. This film is ensemble acting at its finest, one that definitely doesn't deserve the obscurity it's apparently wound up with. Blessed with a top-notch screenplay by Mike Birbiglia (who also directs and plays Miles), Don’t Think Twice is a little heartfelt dramedy gem. How much of it you'll actually find funny will largely depend on how you feel about improv comedy. But if you don't laugh, you probably won't care. This is a fine work nonetheless, with superb performances and an awful lot of heart.


    Don’t Think Twice hits Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Studios in 1080p high definition with an MPEG-4 AVC and an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The image certainly doesn’t look bad, but neither is it the best the format has to offer. There’s detail, though it sometimes seems slightly muted, perhaps due to the type of camera format used as well as the lighting (which mostly seems natural). Faces, cloth textures, bricks, asphalt, foliage… None of it seems particularly sharp (though it never has the slightly blurry look of standard-definition DVD). Colors seem slightly toned down though generally naturalistic; no particular color stands out amidst the rest as can be seen with some Blu-rays. Faces look a little pale, with skin tones not quite peach/pink enough. The film also has a slightly brownish look, though this doesn’t seem to be due to color filters; it probably has more to do with the stylistic choices of people’s clothes and the locales. The almost complete lack of grain suggests that some sort of digital video was used, though it was probably on the low-end of the format. Thankfully, black levels are strong, and there’s no crush or compression issues.

    Universal has utilized a single, lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track for the film. There are no commentary, effects-only, or secondary tracks. The sound is fine. This is a dialogue-driven film, and the surround handles the effects—mostly laughter at the improv shows and ambient sounds—quite well. It may not be the disc that gets broken out at parties to highlight the best a track has to offer, but there’s no hiss, and individual sounds are well balanced.

    The extras begin the moment the disc is placed in the machine, with a series of trailers for other Universal-released films: Ordinary World (2016), Bad Moms (2016), What Now? (2016), and Laid in America (2016). The trailers together last six minutes in length.

    There are a number of bonus features. The first is “IMPROV: Deleted Scenes” (2:56). They’re literally improvisational moments that were cut from the film and, as such, wouldn’t have contributed much anyway. While it’s nice to see them supplied, it’s good that they weren’t left in. They merely would have prolonged the film without good purpose.

    Next up is “The Creative Team” (5:09), which introduces viewers to the principle cast and crew, from director Mike Birbiglia to producer Miranda Bailey and stars Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Chris Gethard, Kate Micucci, and Tami Sagher. It’s a short program but provides some insight into the relationships that everyone developed behind the scenes.

    Don’t Think Twice: The Art of Improv” (3:09) features many of the same people from “The Creative Team,” this time discussing how good improvisation arises out of the moment and the group assembled.

    And finally, “The Commune” (6:43) is a making-of featurette. It goes through each character, beginning with Jack, and describes who each is from the perspective of the director as well as the actors who play the parts.

    The Final Word:

    Don’t Think Twice is a quiet, heartfelt little film, a comedy/drama that may not be laugh-out-loud funny but is appropriately dramatic. The performances are excellent and make viewing the film a worthwhile endeavor. The direction is also fairly quiet and almost invisible, allowing the performances to rise front and center. Universal’s Blu-ray is neither terrific nor terrible; the film looks and sounds good but not great, and there are an ample number of extras.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s on its way.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!