The Osbournes - The First Season
The peculiar joy of "The Osbournes" is realizing how much like any other family - albeit one in unusual circumstances - the subjects are; the surprise is coming to regard Ozzy and Sharon as unusually successful parents, in spite of those circumstances. As much as a family, the Osbournes are like a band that can't break up, which suggests a nice metaphor for any other family.
A second look at the show’s first season only reinforces how utterly likeable the two of them are, especially poor, put-upon, befuddled Ozzy, who could - and should - be far less functional as a human being, never mind a parent, after the life he’s had. The outrageousness of the family - in particular, the infamous deluge of obscenity-laced shouting - recedes, and you notice the moments when a genuine sort of harmony reigns.
The two-disc set comes with a generous package of bonus features, including a blooper reel (though what constitutes a blooper here is really a slippery concept), an “Ozzy translator”, commentary tracks, generous outtakes and interviews, Ozzy’s hilarious “ten commandments” - most of which have to do with children sponging off of indulgent parents - and games. Osbournes Bingo is amusing, but nowhere near as much fun as matching the droppings to the appropriate family pet.
"The Osbournes" might be the high-water mark of the reality TV moment, an ironic thought considering that Ozzy and his celebrity family are, on the surface, far from average, “real people”, as most viewers would understand the term. Which might say a lot about the lie at the heart of the genre - that no one, in the end, was really all that interested in being entertained by mere, banal, quotidian “reality”.
There is a powerful lot of acting going on in this story about a family coping with bereavement, and it’s a good thing that director Brad Silberling was able to pull together a cast up to the job.
As the parents of a murdered young woman, Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon bring the most polished turns in their acting palette to bear; he’s querulous and neurotic, she’s painfully and aggressively candid. Thankfully, Jake Gyllenaal is more than capable of sharing the screen with them, turning in yet another quietly brilliant performance as the dead girl’s hopelessly confused fiancé.
Together, they almost make the film work, until the conciliatory, eager-to-please dynamics of the modern Hollywood “family drama” kick in, nosing the film into the well-traveled ditch at the side of the road, a timid retreat from the burgeoning hint of real pain that the actors were only glimpsingly allowed to reveal.
Star vehicles are insufferable at the best of times, but when you’re talking about an Eddie Murphy star vehicle, a new threshold of discomfort has been reached, as anyone who might have seen both I Spy and the even more dismal Pluto Nash will admit with dismay.
Murphy, allowed to roam at will here with a familiar shtick - equal parts Muhammad Ali and Redd Foxx - sucks the oxygen out of every scene, leaving Owen Wilson, his co-star, to gasp in the barren but busy landscape of a rote spy thriller. A small package of “making-of” shorts included with this package gives some hint as to how gingerly every phase of the production catered to Murphy’s demanding star persona, from wardrobe to design to editing; an object lesson for connoisseurs of doomed productions.
Fatal Attraction for the teen set, with hints of Body Heat and The Natural thrown in for good measure. There’s something disturbing about this sort of sinister melodrama migrating to a high school demographic. With Jesse Bradford in the Michael Douglas role, and Erika Christensen understudying Glenn Close, it wouldn’t be fair to mention a third featured player - the undulating blue light that infuses almost every scene, even those played out nowhere near any pool. Slick, slight, and soulless.