STUDIO: Dreamworks Home Entertainment
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 99 Minutes
Commentaries by Julianne Moore and Jane Anderson
Photo gallery
Sneak previews

The Pitch

Suburban housewife helps her family survive by winning various prizes in jingle writing contests. The best part about it? It’s a true story! Please try to contain your excitement and refrain from trampling fellow shoppers in your mad dash to purchase this DVD.

The Humans

Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern

The Nutshell

Suburban housewife helps her family survive by winning various prizes in jingle writing contests.

That’s all there is to it. The plot is completely straightforward. Evelyn Ryan has an entire litter of children she has to support on her husband’s meager machinist salary. Being that her husband is played by Woody Harrelson, he’s naturally a drunk who spends all of his paycheck on liquor. Enter Evelyn’s mutant power for wordplay. By submitting jingles for products she wins various prizes ranging from a refrigerator to a new car.

Ha ha ha! You lack the muscle control necessary to breathe without a negative pressure ventilator! Isn’t that precious?

Being a blue collar man, her husband feels emasculated because his wife is the bread winner of the family. Rather than stop drinking or become a productive member of society, he regularly gets drunk and berates his wife for being so talented. He then uses his uncanny powers of ineptitude to get the family deeply into debt. His wife wins a contest, they get out of debt and the process repeats itself. The point of the film isn’t the plot. The story just serves a device to spew Hallmark card level inspirational quotes in between family crises.

The Lowdown

Do you enjoy Dreamworks pictures? Here’s an opportunity to show your love of Dreamworks and win great prizes at the same time! Just create a catchy jingle for the film The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio! Make sure your slogan is predictable, boring and full of feel-good inspirational fluff – just like the movie! First prize is copy of the DVD and a truckload of Lifetime original movies which will seem complex and challenging compared to this film.

Did you know that it’s hard to raise a million kids when the sole provider in the house is an alcoholic man with insecurity issues? Shockingly enough, it is! This mother copes with hardship by maintaining a cheerful attitude and looking on the bright side of life. She creates a better life for her children by winning wordplay contests and bringing in the loot. She’s completely selfless and often sacrifices her time and forsakes her own dreams in order to take care of her family.

Things God Does When Bored #3827: Drops birdseed on little children and unleashes the ravenous hell ravens upon them.

Does any of that warm the cockles of your heart? Do you feel your soul being lifted up to a world of lollipop trees and cotton candy concubines? Probably not. Even if you do, you already have the complete gist of what the film is about from a few sentences. The true story of Evelyn Ryan is a great little tale but it has no real legs. It belongs as a short story in an issue of Reader’s Digest, not in a 99 minute feature film.

The film suffers from the effects any short story does when it is stretched to fill a running time. The story repeats itself over and over with a predictable cycle of events. The only breaths of fresh air come in the form of some novel narration sequences. Julianne Moore narrates the process of contest entry and winner selection by riding on giant envelopes straight to New York City. With the magic of computer effects, even contest entries can be exciting!

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is a story straight out of a Chicken Soup for the 1950s Housewife’s Soul but with a bigger budget. Save your money and wait for it to make its way to Oxygen, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Channel or the W Network. If you need an inspirational story in the meantime, go ask your mom how she triumphed over the adversity of raising your ungrateful little self.

Remember how in Multiplicity, the more you cloned a clone the stupider it became? Here’s your explanation for The Forgotten, Evolution and Freedomland.

The Package

The cover art for the film reflects the film’s odd visual style. A giant Julianne Moore sits on a giant envelope after being bombarded by gamma rays. Her husband and 300 kids are standing on the top of said envelope. It makes one long for a film about a giantess who gets her kicks mailing tiny people to far off destinations. The tiny envelope people must resort to cannibalism and only the fittest will survive the journey to New York. Filmmakers shouldn’t tease consumers by giving lame films good cover art like this.

The disc includes two commentary tracks by Julianne Moore and director Jane Anderson. Moore’s track focuses on her experiences on the set and how she got herself in the right mindset to play a 1950s housewife. Anderson infuses her track with more historical information on the people involved. She has a lot of respect for the people involved and a lot of respect for her own film. Moore is a lot more enjoyable to listen to and provides just as much useful information without the bloated opinion of the film’s importance.

Evelyn Ryan’s scrapbook is also included as a special feature if you want to recreate that special thrill that comes from viewing someone’s family photo album. Pregnant women or people with heart problems should refrain from viewing this photo album lest the excitement cause them serious physical harm.

4.0 out of 10