Blu-ray Review: Don Verdean

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Don Verdean, new to Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD via Lionsgate, strands a killer comedic cast in a soft, dreary religious satire. Verdean comes to us from the same team behind Napolean Dynamite but 2004 has never seemed like so long ago. As with Napoleon, director Jared Hess and his co-writer, wife Jerusa, have tried to craft a quirky comedy based around a titular character. In the case of Napolean star Jon Heder some 12 years ago, they struck gold. Here, it's Sam Rockwell as biblical archaeologist Don Verdean. The results aren't likely to stick in anyone's memory for very long.

Verdean hawks a decades-old video series touting his various discoveries of Biblical artifacts. We even see a promotional video for his video series (looks like a late-'80s era VHS tape, bad tracking and all). But his reputation has dulled over the years. No one takes him seriously, with one exception: evangelist preacher Tony Lazarus (Danny McBride). Lazarus wants to fund new Verdean expeditions, especially since Verdean has purportedly discovered the salt pillar that was once Lot's wife. If you don't know who Lot's wife was, join the club. Much of Verdean's humor will be lost on anyone not well-versed in Bible studies.

As Verdean becomes more desperate to deliver archaeological finds, his ethics quickly become comprised. This leads to some forging of artifacts that, again, might not hit too close to home for non-Biblical scholars. Actually the humor falls so consistently flat that I guess even those well-versed in scripture and evangelical culture might not be inspired to chuckle. Amy Ryan co-stars as Verdean's loyal assistant, Will Forte plays a former Satanist who is now Tony's rival, Jermaine Clement (from Flight of the Concords) is Verdean's man in the field (an Israeli charged with delivering discovered items). All of these folks (oh, almost forgot Leslie Bibb as Tony's wife) work quite hard to make the material funnier than it is. It's a lost cause. There are a few scattered chuckles throughout, but given that evangelicalism is such a broad satirical target, it's amazing more gags don't land. 
Don Verdean BD (318x380).jpg Lionsgate's Blu-ray offers a generally solid high definition transfer of Mattias Troelstrup's cinematography and DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. The package includes a Digital HD copy. Special features are limited, but fans of writer-director Jared Hess might enjoy his audio commentary. There's a very short (two minutes) "making of" EPK piece and a somewhat more interesting featurette on sound design, "Behind the Sounds."

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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