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Exporting Raymond (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

July 25, 2011 by  



Witty, fun and highly enjoyable, “Exporting Raymond” is definitely worth watching! Also, aside from getting two episodes of “Everybody Loves Raymond” in HD, you also get the two episodes of the similar storyline from the Russian version of the series, “Everybody Loves Kostya”.  A wonderful release on Blu-ray!

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TITLE: Exporting Raymond

FILM RELEASE DATE: 2010

DURATION: 85 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:78:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

RATED: PG (Brief Language and Smoking)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2011

Written and Directed by Philip Rosenthal

Produced by Jim Czarnecki, Philip Rosenthal

Executive Producer: John Woldenberg

Co-Producer: Brian Singbiel

Line Producer (Russia): Sasha Tsyrlin

Associate Producer: Lisa Yesko

Music by Rick Marotta

Cinematography by Geoffrey O’Connor

Edited by Brian Singbiel, David Zieff

Starring:

Philip Rosenthal

Stanislav Duzhnikov

Anna Frolovtseva

Boris Klyuyev

Konstantin Naumochkin

Aleksandr Zhigalkin

Phil Rosenthal created one of the most successful sitcoms of all-time, “Everybody Loves Raymond.” He was a bona-fide expert in his craft. And then…. the Russians called. In the hilarious EXPORTING RAYMOND, a genuine fish-out-of-water comedy that could only exist in real life, Phil travels to Russia to help adapt his beloved sitcom for Russian television. The Russians don’t share his tastes. They don’t share his sense of humor. But what Phil did discover was a real comedy, filled with unique characters and situations that have to be seen to be believed. An audience award winner at multiple film festivals across the country, EXPORTING RAYMOND proves that even if you’ve never seen “Everybody Loves Raymond”, you’ll still enjoy this wildly entertaining film.

Phil Rosenthal, he is the creative mind and writer of the TV series “Everybody Loves Raymond”.

The television show that dominated ratings, won multiple awards from 1996 through 2005 and is based on the real-life experiences of actor Ray Romano and Rosenthal.

And for many popular series, they tend to receive adaptations for other countries.

So, right after the series ended, Sony’s Russian division had wanted to make a Russian adaptation for the series titled “Everybody Loves Kostya” and what best than to showcase the making of a series overseas than to document it and it is what Phil Rosenthal did in “Exporting Raymond”.

The film received multiple awards at various film festivals in 2010 and 2011 and now it will be released on Blu-ray on August 2, 2011 courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

The creator behind the popular sitcom was called into become a consultant for the Russian version and we watch as Phil Rosenthal is briefed by his American counterparts in Russia but quickly learns the differences between American and Russian culture.

For Rosenthal, his thinking is that the themes that made “Everybody Loves Raymond”, the squabbles between husband and wife and families applies everywhere around the world.

But for Rosenthal, on his first day of meetings, he quickly learns that the Russians are having difficulty understanding him.  For one, the costume designer for the Russian adaptation wants to make the characters fashionable as Russia takes its pride from things looking stylish.  But for Rosenthal, because the sitcom takes place at home and not outdoors, there is no reason for the characters to be stylish.  And its the first conflict he has with the Russians.

The next meeting continues to show conflicts as the writers for the show have problems taking the American style and providing it for an Russian audience and the writers feel there needs to be a change.  Of course, Rosenthal doesn’t see why the show needs to be changed.  The squabbles between husband wife is worldwide and there is comedy in that.  But of course, he feels that because his writers are young and single, they don’t understand.

With Phil feeling a bit disheveled the longer he stays in Russia and people on the Russian side of the business not understanding or communicating with him, fortunately he finds people to confide in such as his Russian translator and his driver (a former soldier/bodyguard).

But what if Phil takes a different approach by trying to understand the Russian people and learning about the differences in their country versus how things were done in America.  Can he make it happen or will a Russian version of “Everybody Loves Raymond” end up being a failure?

VIDEO:

“Exporting Raymond” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1).  It’s important to note that the film was not created with a huge budget or big production.  It’s shot in a documentary style format where it follows Phil Rosenthal and gives us a glimpse of his meetings and his time in Russia.  I get a feeling that present with Phil in Russia were probably one cameraman and one person recording audio.

But unlike a documentary, there is also a scene in a music video-esque style when Phil learns that Russia loves Britney Spears and then we see a montage with CG and stylish effects showing up around Rosenthal to the tune of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”.

Most of the video was shot during the cold winter and while there are some scenes where yellow and red tend to pop, picture quality is good for the most part considering the locations where he had to visit.  I didn’t notice any artifacting or banding but for the most part, for this type of film, picture quality was very good.

Where PQ does make a difference for me was  the special features as we get to see two episodes each of “Everybody Loves Raymond” as well as “Everybody Loves Kostya” in HD.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Exporting Raymond” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD MA and its important to note that this film is primarily dialogue-based.  Granted, there are scenes with crowds which lend to the ambiance of the film but the only time where the sound becomes more punchy and sticks out is during the musical segment of Britney Spears “Toxic” playing.  But for the most part, a film such as “Exporting Raymond” is going to be front and center-channel driven and the lossless audio fits this film very well.

Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Spanish and French.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Exporting Raymond” comes with the following special features:

  • Commentary with Writer/Director Philip Rosenthal  – Audio commentary with writer/director Philip Rosenthal.  Audio commentary is hilarious but also gives us an idea of his thoughts of certain scenes and how he felt at the time and in retrospect.
  • Deleted Scenes – (11:16) Featuring nine deleted scenes.
  • Everybody Loves Kostya – Russian Episodes – Featuring two episodes “Baggage” and “The Family Bed” of “Everybody Loves Kostya” presented in HD and in Russian with English subtitles.
  • Everybody Loves Raymond – American Episodes – Featuring two episodes “Baggage” and “The Family Bed” of “Everybody Loves Raymond” presented in HD.
  • Old Jews Telling Jokes: “Restaurant” By Max Rosenthal  – (1:15) Featuring Max Rosenthal telling a joke.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:26) Featuring the original theatrical trailer of “Exporting Raymond”.

I was a big fan of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and the thought of seeing a Russian adaptation of the series definitely piqued my interest.  But most importantly, the trailer alone and seeing a taste of the challenges that series creator/writer Phil Rosenthal had to face definitely made me want to see this film!

It was good to see how American adaptation of shows such as “My Dream of Jeannie” and “The Nannie” doing so well in Russia. But adaptations from one country to the other is a hit or miss.

For example, BBC had “Coupling”, when it aired on BBC, I was raving about this series and when it was announced that an American adaptation would be made.  At first I was skeptical but I figured, can a show about sex make it in America? And sure enough it flopped, meanwhile another show that aired around the same time in the UK titled “The Office” did magnificent in America.

So, sitcom adaptations are tricky and when “Everybody Loves Raymond”, a series that is about family dynamics, makes sense to us in the U.S., in other countries, the comedy may fly over the head of a person.

So, take for example the argument about the fashion that Rosenthal had to understand.  Why is the leading lady not dressed up?  Rosenthal argues that most people don’t dressup in their home and his argument is valid as I have known more than enough women who rather wear sweats or shorts than being decked out in expensive clothing here in America.

But in the opposite spectrum, I have known women in Japan to France who do dress up daily even at home.  Where the leading lady of “Everybody Loves Raymond” is a wife and hardworking mother, we know the character of Debra who doesn’t let Raymond walk over her.  She is vocally strong and doesn’t let the husband get away with things…while in other cultures, the men are the boss of the house and women just listen and show no independence.

And thus, the cultural conflicts that do come into play.

Personally, I am not a Russian verite when it comes to pop culture but watching “Exporting Raymond”, I had a chance to see how things operate in the country.  Writers, directors and crew are not focusing on one show, they have multiple shows to work on.  So, that is one surprising factor where I can see communication especially from an outsider, a foreigner, an American coming into a country and telling Russians how things should be.  Sure, Phil Rosenthal is the creator of the series, so its important to hear him lend his consulting advice to the Russian directors and writers and other crew.

But while watching this film, I was surprised to hear about the difficulty when it came to getting permission of hiring an actor to other nuances that are on both side of the spectrum.  Adaptation of one series for another country is never easy.  Sometimes things come out quite differently in the end (which are quite evident in film adaptations from popular films from other countries given a Hollywood approach).

“Exporting Raymond” is a film that I absolutely enjoyed because we learn about the journey that Rosenthal had to experience.  If you love “Everybody Loves Raymond”, you understand how he feels when the Russians want to make things different.  But even cultural differences aside, Rosenthal knows what is funny, what makes him laugh and can tell when it doesn’t work.  He doesn’t have to be Russian and he knows it, his American contacts from Sony in Russia know it but because things are done differently, you have to accept how things are and put a smile on your face and let them run with it.

But as for the Blu-ray release, this is where my appreciation for this film comes into place.  Sure, the PQ and AQ are very good but considering this is not a big-budget Hollywood film but a film that is documentary-like, I was quite pleased with the over quality.  But what I was even more pleased was the inclusion of two episodes of the Russian version of the series titled “Everybody Loves Kostya” (with English subtitles) and sure enough, I enjoyed them!

Sure, there are differences but there are also similarities between the US and Russian version of the series but I was quite pleased to see that the casting of the Russian adaptation actually worked (because in the film, casting was quite literally a pain in the ass) in the end.

And of course, for comparison, we also get two episodes from “Everybody Loves Raymond” so one can compare the “Baggage” and “The Family Bed Episodes” of both the US and Russian versions.  But also, if you are a fan of the series, getting a chance to see “Everybody Loves Raymond” on Blu-ray and makes you wonder, if a series can look this much better than its DVD counterpart, then by all means, I’m ready to upgrade a lot of my TV series to HD because it looked very good on Blu-ray!

Also, there are a good number of special features included, especially the audio commentary which is worth listening to. But for any fan of “Everybody Loves Raymond”, for me it was a huge plus to have the two Russian episodes included.  That was wonderful!

Overall, “Exporting Raymond” shows us how adaptation of a series can be complicated for both parties.

Cultural differences definitely makes things more difficult but what Rosenthal was trying to drive into the minds of his Russian counterparts that by the end of the day, there are family issues that can be seen as funny.  Issues between husband and wife can be funny especially if you are living in another country.  While communicating that may not be easy, in the end, especially in this case of “Everbody Loves Kostya”, it all came in place, especially since the Russian adaptation has become the #1 series in Russia and other countries may be interested in doing their version as well.

If you enjoyed “Everybody Loves Raymond” and the work of Phil Rosenthal and want to see the journey he had to take to Russia and the challenges he endured but to watch and also laugh, you can’t go wrong with “Exporting Raymond”.  Witty, fun and highly enjoyable, this one is a worth watching!

 

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