Truly diversely talented actors are hard to find in the current era of entertainment. Sure, there are good actors, both male and female, but finding actors who show true diversity and talent within that diversity is difficult to say the very least. Thinking briefly, some of the names that come to this critic’s mind are the likes of Meryl Streep, the late great Robin Williams, the legendary Katherine Hepburn, and as underappreciated as he is, Paul Giamatti among others. These actors showed time and again their ability to adapt to so many different styles of performances, and did so with such talent. As noted, they are just some of the people on that list. Another name that deserves to be discussed along with them is none other than Dan Akroyd. Akroyd, has shown just as much talent through his diverse roles as his counterparts and contemporaries. Ghostbusters, Driving Miss Daisy, My Stepmother Is An Alien, My Girl and so many other movies have allowed Akroyd to exhibit such range and talent therein. On April 24, another of Akroyd’s classics – Doctor Detroit — will get new life thanks to Universal Pictures and Shout! Factory, thus serving as more proof of Akroyd’s talents and abilities. Whether audiences are seeing it for the first time or first time in a long time, it proves in many ways not only Akroyd’s talents, but in itself to be one of his best movies. It proves both statements first and foremost through its story, which will be discussed shortly. Speaking of Akroyd’s talent and diversity, both show through clearly in his acting, which will be discussed later. The bonus material included with the movie’s forthcoming Blu-ray re-issue put the final touch on the movie’s presentation. Each element is important in its own right to the overall presentation of Doctor Detroit. All things considered, these elements make this movie (and its soon to be released re-issue) a work that any Dan Akroyd fan will appreciate and that proves Akroyd’s place in the pantheon of great actors.
Shout! Factory’s upcoming Blu-ray re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1983 adult comedy Doctor Detroit is a work that will appeal to any Dan Akroyd fan while also proving just as much as Akroyd’s other movies, why he is one of Hollywood’s elite actors. Both of those statements are supported in part through the story at the center of this classic comedy. The story, which is at its heart an underdog story, sees mild-mannered (and very geeky) professor Clifford Skridlow unwittingly thrust into a world that is the polar opposite of his life of academia and the upper crust. It’s really a fish-out-of-water element that when coupled with that underdog element gives this story so much heart. One could even argue that Skridlow having to take on an alter ego of sorts in order to free Walker’s ladies – Monica, Jasmine, Thelma and Karen – even gives the movie a sort of super hero element even though it’s not a super hero story. Through it all, Skridlow maintains his sense of honor, respecting the ladies and befriending Diavolo (T.K. Carter—Domino, Rush Hour, The Thing), again highlighting the story’s underdog element. Considering that element, the super hero element, and the fish-out-of-water element all being so expertly balanced here, the writing team of Bruce Jay Friedman, Carl Gottlieb and Robert Boris deserve their own share of applause for their work. More often than not, the more hands in a proverbial pot, the more troubled things get, but that didn’t happen here. What’s more even with everything going on, the story’s pacing still stayed solid throughout. What’s more the elements themselves blended together just as well and in turn complimented each other quite well. In all honesty, if not for the drugs and sexual content, this movie would have been a great family movie. Director Michael Pressman even makes note of this in his new bonus interview included with the movie’s re-issue. This will be discussed later in the discussion on the movie’s bonus material. Getting back on track, the story itself and the elements tied into the story give the story so much heart that it alone makes this movie a standout work not just from Akroyd and Universal Pictures, but in general. It is just part of the reason that the movie stands out, too. Akroyd’s work on camera is another way in which the movie stands out.
Akroyd’s portrayal of Skridlow and his wild alter ego is so important to note because it keeps audiences just as engaged and entertained as the movie’s story and its combined elements. The two characters so dramatically juxtapose each other throughout. One could almost argue that Akroyd took certain parts of his character from his Coneheads skits on Saturday Night Live and attributed it to his take on the “good doctor.” Those familiar with his performance in those skits will hopefully see that comparison just as much as this critic. In the same breath, his presentation of Skridlow as a geeky, mild-mannered figure makes one wonder if that portrayal played – at least in part – to his portrayal of Ray Stanz in The Ghostbusters. That’s because there is at least some similarity in those characters. Watching Akroyd’s portrayal of Skridlow as he tries to balance the two personality types throughout is a laugh riot and makes suspension of disbelief so easy. Considering all of this, and the work of his supporting cast, those collective performances go a long way toward making the story even more interesting. They make their characters that entertaining with their comic and caring personas. While Akroyd’s work, and that of his cast mates, clearly does plenty to add to Doctor Detroit’s enjoyment, it still is not the last of the movie’s most important elements. The bonus material included in the movie’s upcoming re-issue rounds out its most important elements.
The bonus material included in Doctor Detroit’s new re-issue is important to note because it combines some previous bonus material with some new material. The new material includes a feature length audio commentary with director Michael Pressman and Pop Culture Historian Russell Dyball and a one-on-one interview with Pressman about the movie. The older material includes the familiar promotional radio interviews that the cast did for the movie, the trailers, TV spots, radio spots and photo gallery. The new material included in this release offers quite a bit of insight and entertainment. One of the most interesting comments that comes from Pressman’s one-on-one interview is his hindsight revelation about the movie’s drug and sexual content. He said in no uncertain terms of that content, that he was not fond of that content, looking back on the movie. Ironically, if that content had not been there, the movie’s story might have been quite different. That’s not to say a similar story could not have been told. But it would have likely ended up quite different, but probably still as entertaining in its own right. That sentiment is echoed in the feature-length audio commentary along with his discussion his decision to make the movie very cartoonish, right down to the wrecker running through the junkyard gate. Just as interesting to note in his interview and commentary is the note the connection of the drug content to the death of Akroyd’s fellow actor and longtime friend John Belushi’s death not long before the movie’s filming from a drug overdose. Pressman openly ruminates that he was concerned how Akroyd would handle those references considering Belushi’s passing so soon before work on the movie started. Bringing everything full circle, Dyball notes during the audio commentary that he personally thought this movie was the point at which Akroyd’s star really started to rise, creatively speaking. He admitted The Blues Brothers and 1941 were both good movies, but that it wasn’t until this movie that things really started moving for him. He has a point. Looking at the movies that came after Doctor Detroit – Trading Places, Ghostbusters, Spies Like Us, Dragnet, etc – it is a valid statement, at least to this critic.
As if the information shared in the new bonus material is not enough, the promotional radio interviews offer their own insight and entertainment. Akroyd talks about The Blues Brothers in one of the radio interviews, noting that he felt the movie was, at its heart, about separation of church and state. That is an interesting angle to take. He also notes the creative process for Doctor Detroit and a handful of other topics that are in themselves certain to keep audiences just as entertained and engaged as the information shared in the new bonus material. Between the information shared by Akroyd and the rest of the movie’s cast in the radio interviews and the information and thoughts shared in the movie’s new bonus material, the bonus material overall presents plenty of its own reason for audiences to watch this new re-issue. When all of the bonus material is considered along with the work of Akroyd (and his castmates) and the movie’s fully entertaining story, the whole of those elements makes Doctor Detroit the right prescription (yes, this critic went there) for Akroyd’s fans and for classic movie buffs alike.
Shout! Factory’s upcoming re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1983 adult comedy Doctor Detroit is a wonderful watch for Dan Akroyd’s fans and classic film buffs alike. It is the perfect prescription (yes, this critic went there again) for anyone looking for an alternative to all of the prequels, sequels, reboots, biopics and movies based on actual events currently filling theaters. That is proven in no small part to the movie’s central story, which expertly balances so many story elements into one whole. Even being an adult comedy, those elements give the movie just enough heart that if not for the drug and sexual references (including the sexual content that makes up its central plot), this could easily be a family movie. The work of Akroyd and his fellow cast mates throughout does plenty in its own right to keep audiences entertained and engaged. The entertainment and insight offered through the movie’s bonus material – both the familiar and the new – adds its own level of enjoyment here, too. Each element is important in its own right, as has hopefully been made clear in this review. All things considered, they make the upcoming re-issue of Doctor Detroit one of this year’s top new movie re-issues. It will be available April 24 in stores and online. It can be pre-ordered online now via Shout! Factory’s store. More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:
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