DVD Review: 3 Idiots

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After taking Bollywood by storm in the waning days of 2009, the superb Hindi comedy 3 Idiots was finally released on DVD last week. Given the quality of the DVD, I think it was worth the wait.

I was so fond of 3 Idiots when I saw it in the theater that I named it my Best Bollywood Movie of 2009. It’s in many ways a movie from another time, a throwback to the days when a comedy featuring adult characters could be family-friendly and didn’t rely entirely on crude scatological or sexual humor.

25 years or so ago, studios could count on moviegoers to turn out for light comic fare starring adult characters. In 1984, Police Academy, Romancing the Stone and Splash were among the top ten highest-grossing films of the year in the U.S. All three of those comedies featured adult protagonists. Films with older teen protagonists like Gremlins, The Karate Kid and Footloose also made the Top Ten that year.

1984 wasn’t an aberration. 1985’s Top Ten included Cocoon, Jewel of the Nile and Spies Like Us, while 1986’s had Crocodile Dundee, Back to School and Ruthless People.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and you’ll see a box office dominated by big-budget action films and animated kids’ movies. Top-ten performances by grown-up comedies are rare: Meet the Fockers in 2004, Wedding Crashers in 2005, The Hangover in 2009. As a result, this type of movie is no longer a high priority for Hollywood studios.

That’s why 3 Idiots was so refreshing when it came out. The road trip comedy about two pals searching for their long-lost college chum is universal in its appeal. It’s funny and sweet, something that you can turn on any time you need a little pick-me-up.

20th Century Fox produced the DVD and made it especially accessible for American viewers who don’t understand Hindi. Dialog is subtitled in English automatically without having to change any menu settings. Within the setup menu, subtitle options include Spanish and French, as well as English for the deaf and hard of hearing — which adds descriptions of other audible noises (yawns, coughs, chuckles, etc.).

Sadly, the bonus features are inconsistently subtitled. Since they were shot on location and impromptu, the audio isn’t always clear. Though the actors and crew often speak in English, the poor sound quality makes it hard to understand.

Of the four bonus features, “Idiots in Ladakh” is the best, because it’s the most visual. The short film chronicles weather problems that beset the crew as they filmed in Ladakh, a picturesque mountain town in northern India near the Tibetan border. The brutal conditions nearly left some crew members stranded in a blizzard and delayed the film schedule for a year.

The other three bonus features are amusing, but not required viewing. “Making of Miss Idiot” shows the costume selection process for Kareena Kapoor’s nerdy character, which mostly boiled down to convincing glamorous Kareena to wear glasses. “Aal Izz Well” looks at the making of the dance number that accompanies the song of the same title, and “100% Idiots” reveals that the actors weren’t faking it during the movie’s drunk scene.

3 Idiots is one of the rare films that I feel confident in recommending to anyone, so go check it out.

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