Blu-ray, DVD, Movie Everywhere copy; 2017; R for language; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, YouTube
Best extra: “A Culture of Comparing Ourselves” featurette
FROM ITS clumsy title and clichéd father-son cover photo, featuring Ben Stiller and Austin Abrams, it would be understandable to expect a weepy-of-the-week TV movie from “Brad’s Status.”
The first few minutes of the film, showing Stiller lying in bed while his voice-over narrates details of his self-doubt and nagging envy of his former college buddies’ lifestyles, might suggest a totally predictable groaner of a plot. But stick with this little jewel. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with a plausible (okay, so it is predictable) storyline, as well as some extremely appealing and sympathetic characters.
The simple message of “Brad’s Status” is to count one’s blessings in life, rather than obsessing over how much more the other guy has, or how much happier, richer and more successful he seems. Not very profound stuff, but Stiller (as Brad) and the wonderful young Abrams, as his music prodigy son Troy, are a pleasure to observe, as they travel to Cambridge, Mass. so Troy can interview at Harvard. The amount of time and energy Brad wastes coveting the lives of his three old buddies eventually comes to the fore. Reality, as well as his teenaged son’s and his peers’ perspective, ultimately set Brad straight.
The fine cast includes the film’s writer/director Mike White, Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, Jenna Fischer and Jemaine Clement. Despite its shades of “Walter Mitty” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Brad’s Status” manages to feel fresh, funny and real, thanks to an intelligent screenplay and spot-on performances.
This Universal Studios Blu-ray is all it should be, considering its state-of-the-art digital production. Skin tones are natural, details sharp, color saturation excellent. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is also top notch, with dialogue clear and the musical segments perfectly balanced.
Extras are rather measly, consisting of four very brief (under three-minutes each) featurettes. The most interesting of them is “A Culture of Comparing Ourselves,” in which White discusses what he calls “status anxiety,” which he says has gone from “keeping up with the Joneses” to “keeping up with the Kardashians” in today’s society. Thanks to social media, he adds, there is a “trickle down” effect in the public’s lust for, and envy of, extravagant and ostentatious wealth. “We never feel like we’ve done enough, had enough,” notes White. Sheen comments that, while “Brad’s Status” feels like one kind of film, it turns out to be much more complex.
- Peggy Earle