Paramount/1999/104/ANA 1.85

    Tracing the growing pains of three African-American teenagers, The Wood alternates between present and past, as two friends try to get their best buddy to the church on time, all the while remembering the origins of their friendship.

Bonding at the dance. ŠParamount

      The Wood  works best when it's looking back. The boys remember the years when sex dominated their every move. Big Mike narrates tales of the Englewood "hood", known as The Wood in local parlance. The kids go through junior high and high school together, looking virtually the same through every period. This makes the time changes a bit confusing. No new ground is broken, but these young men are good kids, looking to stay clean. The "hood" has its bad news toughs, but the focus is more middle class juiced up by perhaps too much profanity.
     The modern tale fails utterly, often displaying bad taste. The truth is,  the filmmakers did not need flashbacks to spice up a possible linear script treatment. The choice comes close to sinking The Wood, but wood floats, and there's enough in the core scenes of this movie to make it enjoyable.
     Omar Epps, Taye Diggs and Richard T. Jones play the trio of friends on the wedding day. Epps is strong as Mike and Jones solid as Slim, but Diggs does some sloppy drunk work as Roland. Sean Nelson, who was wonderful in Fresh, seems all at sea as young Mike. His awkwardness overpowers every other aspect of the character. Duane Finley is one-dimensional as young Slim and Trent J. Cameron is okay as teenage Roland. Malinda Williams makes a pretty picture as the source of Mike's juvenile sexual hunger.
      Unfortunately, the young actors do not match up very well with their grown counterparts. Ironically, the mature actors, except for Diggs,  are the most appealing despite poor scripting  and the youngsters, given the better material, are less charismatic. 
     A very good-looking DVD, The Wood gets the anamorphic treatment from Paramount. The resulting detail is excellent with no enhancement artifacts adding noise and extra edges tot he picture. Color rendition is accurate. The light output is outstanding. Contrast range consistently adds pop to the picture. Altogether, a very easy-watching DVD. A few slightly soft scenes bring the DVD presentation down a notch from perfection, but they are hardly noticeable.
    The Dolby Digital 5:1 surround is fine, though the film does not call for an aggressive mix. The rap beat does not overpower the action and provides an accurate, tight, bass. As a reminder, you need to select Dolby Digital 5:1 under the audio options if that's your preference since Paramount defaults to the Dolby Matrixed tracks.


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