• The Wild Life (Kino Lorber) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Kino Lorber
    Released on: April 13th, 2021.
    Director: Art Linson
    Cast: Christopher Penn, Eric Stoltz, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Lea Thompson, Jenny Wright, Rick Moranis, Randy Quaid
    Year: 1984
    Purchase From Kino Lorber

    The Wild Life – Movie Review:

    Written by Cameron Crowe and directed by Art Linson for Universal Studios, 1984’s The Wild Life stars Eric Stoltz and Chris Penn as Bill Conrad and Tom Drake respectively. Eric has just finished high school and wants to get his own place, having saved the money he’s made at his bowling alley job over the last while to come up with the money to do. He’s also recently broken up with his girlfriend, Anita (Lea Thomspon), as he figures it isn’t right to be dating a high school girl now that he’s done. Tom, on the other hand, still hasn’t graduated and likes to party a little too hard with his pals on the wrestling team. He’s still dating Eileen (Jenny Wright), who works at a fashion store with a lecherous, nerdy boss named Harry (Rick Moranis). Bill’s younger brother, Jim (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), has an obsession with the Vietnam War that leads him to befriend a junkie vet named Charlie (Randy Quaid).

    When Bill does get his own place and winds up having some financial trouble, he brings Tom in as a roommate. This quickly spirals out of control when Tom parties too hard and too often, even bringing the cable TV guy (Lee Ving!) into their pad to get drunk and eat everything in the fridge. When Anita gets involved with an older cop named David (Hart Bochner) only to find out that he’s married, Bill starts to wonder if maybe they should get back together, all while trying to figure out what to do about his best friend screwing everything up at their new pad. Meanwhile, Eileen wants to split up with Tom, because he’s an idiot and keeps screwing things up, which inspires him to propose to her.

    A fairly plotless film, The Wild Life does a decent job of portraying the challenges teens go through as they evolve into adulthood, portraying through the main characters of Bill and Tom how some are ready for the challenges and some just aren’t. Stoltz is pretty good here, we can buy him in his role and see why, for the most part, people seem to like him. Bill is a nice guy and a pretty responsible person, his performance reflects this well. Penn as Tom, however, is clearly meant to resemble his more famous brother’s more famous role in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, and it’s tough to see Tom as much more than a Jeff Spicoli knock off. Given Crowe wrote the screenplay for both films, it makes you wonder what exactly the deal was here. Penn plays the goofy Tom well enough, but the character is hard to like given his penchant for starting fights and his complete disregard for his best friend’s wellbeing or interests.

    The female cast members fare well enough. Lea Thompson is likeable here and while we know it’s a bad idea for a high school girl to have sex with a cop in the back of the donut store where she works, that’s just poor form, but when she finds out he’s married we feel bad for her because she’s convincing in her sadness. Jenny Wright is decent here as well, flat out adorable but also assertive enough to push back on Tom when he starts up with his nonsense.

    As to the supporting cast, Ilan Mitchell-Smith does well enough with the character as written, but his character really doesn’t bring much to the story. We never really understand why he’s obsessed with Vietnam and while his rebellious streak isn’t out of character for a teenager his age, the story never gives us an explanation for why he does what he does. He’s just sort of there, as is Randy Quaid as Charlie. You could argue these subplots just represent the randomness that is life, but you could also argue that they’re there to pad the movie. Rick Moranis is legitimately funny in his role, and Lee Ving plays a beer drinking asshole pretty much perfectly, go figure.

    Sherilyn Fenn has a small part in the movie as well, and look for Nancy Wilson of heart cast here as David's wife. Speaking of, Hart Bochner plays the power abusing cop pretty well, we hate him from the moment we lay eyes on him. None other than Kitten Natividad is cast here as one of the strippers.

    The Wild Life – Blu-ray Review:

    The Wild Life is presented on a 50GB disc with the transfer given 30.2GBs of space on the disc. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition image is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and it looks to have been taken from one of Universal’s older masters. There’s okay, but never great, detail here though we do get very good color reproduction with a lot of those garish eighties color schemes popping nicely. Print damage is never an issue but some smearing is noticeable and it looks like some light DNR has been applied here.

    The audio is handled by a 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track, in English, with optional subtitles provided in English only. Audio quality is good. Dialogue is easy to understand and to follow and the film’s score has good depth and presence, sounding really strong in a few scenes. Hiss and distortion are never an issue and the levels are nicely balanced.

    Extras start off with a new audio commentary by the late Mike ‘McBeardo’ McPadden (to whom the disc has been dedicated – a very nice touch from Kino), the man who wrote the book ‘Teen Movie Hell,’ and author/disc jockey Ian Christe. It’s a good track with a lot of critical analysis contained inside as the pair talks about what they feel sets this movie apart from other similar films. They spend a good bit of time talking about Cameron Crowe’s writing and how this movie compares and contrasts with some of his other projects, but they also go over some of what makes the characters interesting and, of course, some of the comparisons to Fast Times. Along the way they provide lots of details on the production’s history as well as trivia relating to the cast and crew. It’s a good track, worth listening to if you’re a fan of the film.

    Additionally, Kino includes a new interview with actor Ilan Mitchell-Smith that runs just shy of fifteen-minutes. Here he looks back on how he wound up getting cast in the film, thoughts on the character that he played, how he got along with the cast and what it was like working with director Art Linson.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are 9 radio spots, a theatrical trailer, bonus trailers for a few other Kino releases (The Allnighter, Hard To Hold and North Shore), menus and chapter selection options.

    The Wild Life - The Final Word:

    The Wild Life is much more of a slice of life dramedy than the teen comedy that it appears to be, so keep your expectations in check when diving into it. It’s an uneven mix of humor and drama to be sure, but some of the acting is solid and there are a couple of decent laughs to be had, even if the film winds up more of an eighties oddity than a stone cold classic.

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

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      "It's casual".

      I watched it again to see if it would click the second time.

      It did not.

      But Rick Moranis' outfit/hair and the appearance of Lee Ving do make it pretty awesome.
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      I love this movie!
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      Me too, Scott.
    1. VinceP's Avatar
      VinceP -
      Me three.