One of the movies I really wanted to see last fall was the romance-comedy 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.' I like actor Michael Cera and loved him in 'Superbad,' and the trailers looked funny and showed real promise. I never did make it out to see it on the big screen, though, and since then the film completely stayed off my radar. That is of course, until I received a copy recently for review. Now I finally had my opportunity to see it, in high-definition no less, but as much as I hoped to enjoy the movie, I just couldn't get into it. For me, the pacing was way too slow, it seemed the trailers had revealed all the handful of laughs, and I had a hell of a time trying to stay awake through the whole thing. The experience was about as sleep-inducing as any song by another Norah -- Norah Jones.
Based on the young adult novel by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist' tells the story of two high school seniors brought together by fate and their passion for indie music. Nick O'Leary (Michael Cera), the guitarist and the only straight member of an all-gay band called The Jerk-Offs, has been moping around for weeks after being dumped by his beautiful but hollow shell of a girlfriend Tris (Alexis Dziena). Hoping to cheer up their band mate, Dev (Rafi Gavron) and Thom (Aaron Yoo) decide to take Nick for a night on the town, cruising the underground music scene of Manhattan in search of an elusive group known as Where's Fluffy? Meanwhile, Norah Silverberg (Kat Dennings), who has similar tastes in music, meets Nick while clubbing with her best friend Caroline (Ari Graynor). As the window of opportunity for potential romance begins to close thanks to a drunken Caroline, matchmakers Dev and Thom step in to help guide Cupid's arrow -- but is Nick still too blinded by his infatuation with Tris to notice something special right before his eyes?
I had been wondering why the word "infinite" was placed into the title of this film, and now it all makes perfect sense: the first half felt like it was going to drag on forever. Following the setup for the story, we are forced to watch either conversation after conversation of generic teen dialogue, or cars driving from point A to point B to point C and so on -- with not much else happening on screen. Actually there is the side plot of Caroline venturing off on her drunken walkabout throughout the city encountering all kinds of New York's insane denizens and always managing to be one step ahead of those desperate to find her, but to be honest it came across more like filler and I'll probably remember as much of this as Caroline will when she wakes up the next morning.
To be fair, it wasn't a total bust, largely thanks to the two leads commanding the title characters. Whenever we need an awkward and naïve all-around nice guy, Cera was born for the part. As expected, he delivers here as well, the only thing that concerns me is that his lack of versatility may permanently typecast him for these types of roles. Then there's the sweet, charming, and sophisticated Kat Dennings as Norah. Both she and Cera have good chemistry with each other, it's just too bad they didn't have more to work with. As for the other characters, the only one that receives any decent amount of time on camera is Graynor, and even she is pretty one-dimensional, being totally wasted the entire time. One thing I did like was the way the gay characters weren't portrayed as the usual stereotypical caricatures as they usually are in movies, but the fact remains they still didn't have much to do.
Yes, I know 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist' has its dedicated followers -- I'm just not one of them. The soundtrack of indie music was alright, but personally I was flat out bored with the rest of the presentation. Although I will agree that parts of the film attempt to treat the audience with intelligence, this is all washed away when a piece of chewing gum gets more screen time and adventure than some of the characters. Either we have a subliminal product placement commercial for Stride on our hands, or one of the executive producers must've been Willy Wonka.
The Sony engineers present the film on a BD-50 with a pretty good 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (1.85:1 aspect ratio) encode, but this one still has enough quirks to prevent me from calling it a slam dunk for the format.
The film has a warm palette with bold and vivid colors such as Nick's bright yellow Yugo, and contrast is strong. Flesh tones also look realistic, if a tad on the soft side. The picture has a small amount of grain that becomes noticeably heavier during interior scenes inside vehicles, as well as some compression noise. Black levels are firm, but as the film mostly takes place at night, larger patches like overhead views of the city aren't as deep as they could be, plus there is a bit of mild crushing in some sequences. I've seen better Blu-rays, but I've also seen much worse.
By the way, those concerned about region playback will be pleased that the U.S. version of 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist' on Blu-ray isn't region-locked and therefore should play on all PlayStation 3 and standalone players.
The lossless English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track sounds great for what it's worth. The film's audio is primarily front-channel heavy, and the dialogue comes through clear and crisp without issues. Mark Mothersbaugh's score combined with the assortment of indie tunes that are essentially the heart of the film, both sound terrific. Dynamic range is powerful, and the bass isn't overly active, but still has a decent presence. There isn't much in the way of surround activity here, though, aside from the slight background chatter from the nightclubs. Generally speaking, the track isn't demo material by any means, but for this type of movie it's very competent.
The disc also includes Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks in French and Portuguese, as well as a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in Spanish. The feature film has optional subtitles in Arabic, Dutch, English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, and Spanish, while the commentary has subtitles available in Dutch, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Sony packs this Blu-ray disc with a wide array of supplemental material ported over from the standard-definition 2-Disc Special Edition DVD release.
I won't argue that many will find 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist' to be an atmospheric teen romance that's hip and trendy. On the other hand, I'm sure I speak on behalf of others when I say that the film's snail pace and dry wit may turn out to be a bit of a disappointment. The Blu-ray offers fair video, good audio, plus extensive supplements, but if you haven't seen the movie yet it would be wise to give this one a rent first before jumping in on a blind buy.