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Donnie Darko (2001) – DVD Review

Donnie Darko DVD cover art


Written & Directed by: Richard Kelly
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, Marcy McDonnell, Katharine Ross, Patrick Swayze


  • Running audio commentary with Kelly and Gyllenhaal
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes with Optional Director Commentary
  • “Cunning Visions” Infomercials
  • The Philosophy of Time Travel Book
  • Website Gallery
  • “Mad World” Music Video
  • Art Gallery & Production Stills
  • Cast & Crew Info
  • Theatrical Trailer & TV Spots

Released by: Fox
Region: 1
Rating: R
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Own it.

[ad#longpost]Gretchen: Donnie Darko? The hell kind of name is that? It’s like some sort of superhero or something.

Donnie: What makes you think I’m not?

That’s the kind of film we’re dealing with here. But since this film probably slipped below your respective radars during its theatrical release, let me break down the formula: Take some teen angst circa 1988, toss in some multidimensional time travel, a supernatural guide dressed as a giant rabbit, shove them all into your Cuisinart, and Donnie Darko is the result. It was a Sundance favorite that marked the debut of young director/screenwriter Richard Kelly, and featured a cast worth a bit more than the film’s entire $4 million budget. And while the film peaked at a slim 58 theaters nationwide, this nicely packed DVD does do the film justice and it finally gives you guys a chance to actually see it.

Donnie Darko doesn’t preach to the audience about what’s going on, and essentially tells you to “figure it out on your own.” But what IS clear is that Donnie is a brilliant, slightly disturbed high school kid from a typically dysfunctional family. He is able to avoid death-by-falling-jet-engine when a mysterious 6-foot bunny rabbit named Frank guides him towards an alternative path of enlightenment and destruction. Still with me? Well it seems that our friend Donnie is stuck in a 28 day parallel universe of which only he is aware, and must unwind it with the help of his new pal Frank. You’re on your own from there, because I won’t spoil it. Just be prepared for a dark, emotional ride involving some eerily REAL people and a sci-fi twist.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Donnie Darko

Now I’m pretty much convinced that this movie, without the supplements available on this DVD, would likely drive most people insane trying to figure out what this movie really is. Is it about the romance between Donnie and Gretchen? Is it about a dysfunctional family? Is it about mullets, coke addicts and crazy self-help gurus? Or is it about time travel? Hell, I don’t know–that’s what the commentary and the deleted scenes are for. The commentary by Kelly and Gyllenhaal, two relative youngsters in the industry, is informative, entertaining, and very forthcoming about the circumstances that allowed this small project to see the light of day. And it’s absolutely essential to watch the 20+ deleted scenes to get a sense of where Kelly intended to take the film, and to really capture this film’s comic-book quality–Donnie IS a superhero in some ways, and certainly has a powerful gift that other characters are only vaguely aware of.

Frank from Donnie Darko

Some of the other supplements, like the “Cunning Visions” mock-motivational infomercial used in the film–complete with a nauseatingly funny mock commentary–are just fun additions that Kelly’s well deserved DVD budget allowed him to add to the disc. For a film that just barely snuck into theaters late last year, it has turned out to be a great DVD find for those of you who enjoy discovering something new on New Release Tuesday. And think of it this way: it’s 20 bucks after you’ve already saved 8 dollars by never finding the movie in theaters.

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