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DVD Purgatory: 'Spring Breakdown'

Elliott Smith Elliott Smith
September 18th, 2009 8:50am EDT
Spring BreakdownIn between box-office heaven and unreleased hell lies DVD Purgatory, where movies with popular actors, big budgets and bigger problems rest in eternal damnation on the shelves of your local Blockbuster. Each month we'll take a look at one of these lost souls and figure out what went wrong. This month's unfortunate victim is "Spring Breakdown".

Female-centric comedies are rarely big winners, but the ones that break through - think "Legally Blonde" or "House Bunny" - usually hit it big due to the dearth of funny films targeted toward women.

So, it made sense for Warner Bros. to give the go-ahead to "Spring Breakdown" given the playful premise, the talent assembled and the potential for hitting the female audience quadrant. The only problem? That go-ahead was issued in 2006, and the film didn't hit DVD until this summer, a curious fate for a film that had a buzzworthy actor, appearances in two Entertainment Weekly preview issues and a premiere at Sundance.

So what happened? Apparently Warner Bros. didn't think they could find an audience for this (and turn a profit) despite a meager $10-15 million budget, and so delay after delay finally gave way to a straight-to-DVD premiere. As for the movie itself, it's a mix of some truly inspired moments and things we've seen in these kinds of films many times before.

Becky (Parker Posey), Gayle (Amy Poehler) and Judi (Rachel Dratch) are three college outcasts who are confident their lives will change for the better once they get out in the real world, only to find, 15 years later, that they are still dorks.

Spring Breakdown

Image © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Becky works as an office assistant for a ball-busting Senator (Jane Lynch), Gayle is a dog trainer who just got rejected by a blind guy and Judi is getting ready to marry a man everyone knows is gay. They spend their evenings making pizza and planning "exotic" trips to the Women's Music Festival while putting on a façade of happiness. But when Becky gets the assignment of keeping track of the Senator's college-age daughter (Amber Tamblyn) during her spring break trip to South Padre Island, Gayle and Judi join in, seeing it as an opportunity to live the wild college life they never had.

This fish-out-of-water premise has been done countless times before, but it works to some extent here thanks to the willingness of Poehler and Dratsch, in particular, to throw themselves full on into the ridiculousness of the situation. Gayle somehow ingratiates herself into the popular clique "The Sevens" and begins transforming herself from a wallflower to a hoochie, while Judi begins a passionate romance with a college student who doesn't even know who she is.


The real star of the movie, however, is Missi Pyle, who steals every scene she's in as a ribald hotel manager/18-year spring break vet. Seriously, why she isn't a bigger star is a mystery.

But when you get down to it, there's not a lot of fertile territory from spring break, and so the film runs out of steam in the second half, when the inevitable conflicts occur. It's not a complete waste of time, but there's nothing revolutionary on screen either. It's simply a middle-of-the-road comedy with a talented cast that doesn't take full advantage of its novel premise.

Should it have been sent to DVD Purgatory? Probably not. With the right marketing campaign, this could have drawn female audiences and certainly could have recouped the WB's meager investment.

Elliott Smith
Story by Elliott Smith

Starpulse contributing writer