'Drunk' is worth a second look

THE BALTIMORE SUN

One of the questions most frequently asked of movie critics is, "Do you ever see a movie more than once before reviewing it?" The answer is, inevitably, "Almost never, and only rarely would it make any difference in my opinion."

Yet in writing this column, I've revisited a number of films only a few months after having seen them in theaters and have found reasons to wish I did have the time and opportunity to see some films again before judgment was passed.

A perfect example is Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love, which I reviewed favorably after seeing it last fall. The movie turned the consensus opinion of Adam Sandler, playing a lonely guy with a coupon addiction who somehow stumbles on a real relationship, on its pointed head: His fans avoided it, finding it too low-key and quirky; those whose opinion of Sandler had been low saw him in a new light.

There was even talk of an Academy Award nomination, which was an overreaction by snobs surprised to find that Sandler had charm; anyone who had seen The Wedding Singer or even Big Daddy already knew that. Besides, the film was a throwaway, filling the gap between Anderson's Magnolia and whatever multilayered drama the director decided to tackle next.

Seen again, Punch-Drunk Love, released as a two-DVD Special Edition (Columbia TriStar, $28.95), is revealed to be more than a novelty; it's a romantic comedy of uncommon and uncontrived sweetness and true originality. Sandler's performance is not so much reserved as it is contained; when he boils over, the film has enough menace to spook us and Emily Watson, playing the woman who senses the longing and goodness beneath the turtle shell of his electric-blue suit.

It's also fabulous-looking, and the DVD faithfully reproduces its visual vibrancy. The color scheme is showcased in the 12-minute montage of images and the brief "Scopitone" interludes designed by art director Jeremy Blake that highlight the supplementary material on Disc 2. Also included are two understandably deleted scenes, but no interviews or commentary, which is just as well: It's one of those movies better left undefined.

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