Went To Coney Island On a Mission From God… Be Back By Five Blu-ray Review

A Touching, Comedic Ode To Coney Island

Jon Cryer became famous starring in Two And A Half Men with Charlie Sheen but the actor had a long career before hitting sitcom fame. Director Richard Schenkman and Cryer co-wrote Went To Coney Island On a Mission From God… Be Back By Five together, basing it off personal experiences in Cryer’s own life. This endearing, wry dramedy concerns two friends looking for their long-lost childhood friend they’ve fallen out of touch with, now rumored to be homeless. A personal project for Cryer, the humorous movie has a wonderfully nostalgic affection for Coney Island’s past.

The heart-felt tale concerns three childhood friends growing up into their twenties and struggling with the demands of adulthood. As children, Stan (Rick Stear), Daniel (Jon Cryer) and Richie were close friends, growing up in New York City together. As the friends graduated high school, Richie drifted away from the other two. Now in their late twenties, the friends live pedestrian lives crushed by the responsibilities of adulthood. When they get word that Richie may now be homeless, they make it their mission to visit Coney Island and find him. The long-winded movie’s name is a reference to the friends’ code they had as children, whenever they wanted to skip school.

These are ordinary guys with real problems, trying to get by as best they can in life

Daniel and Stan can’t believe their old friend Richie may be homeless, wondering what went wrong. As the two friends search for him, they encounter the strange denizens that hang around Coney Island in the dead of winter. All the problems in their own lives get an honest examination as Daniel and Stan open up with each other about their own failures. Stan has a major drinking problem and Daniel has guilt hanging over him from high school about an incident with Richie. Looking to help out Richie, they might just help themselves in the process.

Went To Coney Island is a funny movie. Despite the occasionally heavy emotional themes, both Stan and Richie are fundamentally likable characters. These are ordinary guys with real problems, trying to get by as best they can in life. Stan has a permanent disability that requires the use of a cane, an affliction he’s had since childhood. The movie delicately balances the dramatic tragedy with lighter moments, bringing proper perspective to these characters’ problems.

In its own way, director Richard Schenkman has crafted a moving film about friendship with memorable characters. The nods to Coney Island’s past are nostalgic and also useful in serving as a symbolic metaphor for these characters. The once-vibrant boardwalk lays dormant in winter, waiting for summer. There is a tenderness at the heart of this movie that elevates it above most indie comedies.

The movie’s title could have been shortened but it is certainly worth catching this overlooked lost gem from the 1990s.

Video

MVD’s marketing spiel for this set includes the impressive-sounding “frame-by-frame digital restoration from original 35mm film elements.” Some work has been done to the transfer that improves the video quality, though don’t expect reference-caliber work. This is the first time Went To Coney Island has received a real HD transfer.

Given the clarity and substantial jump in resolution, I will guess that a new 2K transfer has been struck from the 35mm negative. The 1998 film was a low-budget production to begin with, so it doesn’t have razor-sharp definition. This is generally a softer film experience with excellent clarity.

The film transfer itself is serviceable with mild ringing and a slightly cool color temperature. Some processing is evident. The video has been filtered on some level. That much is clear from the impressively even grain structure and smooth facial features. The ringing is left over from the processing. Digital clean-up has definitely been applied to the transfer, ensuring a cleaner and more consistent presentation with less debris and visible wear.

The 93-minute main feature is encoded in a reasonably transparent AVC encode, given space to breathe on a BD-25. The largely pristine presentation is free from obvious compression artifacts. The 1.78:1 presentation is in the proper aspect ratio.

The movie’s cinematography shifts between warmer tones in the flashback scenes, and the colder color temperatures of the present. It’s lacking a bit of warmth in general. The flat, dull colors could have used a tweak with a new color grading. This doesn’t impact the consistent contrast and adequate black levels.

After viewing this disc you’ll think MVD and the filmmakers left a little something on the table when it comes to picture quality. It’s a decent HD transfer but one that could be improved upon with the right guidance. However, the Blu-ray is a huge upgrade over prior editions of the film.

Audio

The surround mix in the 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio is quite satisfactory for this kind of dialogue-driven comedy and pathos. The score and its occasional songs sound fuller and richer in it. This isn’t an aggressive mix with a lot of discrete elements, though the city’s setting does provide some minor ambient action coming from the rears. The dialogue is clean and intelligible.

Optional English subtitles play in a yellow font. A secondary 2.0 stereo PCM soundtrack offers a lesser audio experience, losing some of the soundstage and impact.

Extras

This is part of MVD’s Rewind Collection, their line of special collector’s editions for worthwhile films. Besides the clear BD case, it comes with a slipcover. A neat mini-poster of the film is also included. The only thing new here appears to be the introduction but it’s a solid assortment of extras, from the tasteful packaging to the informative commentary and mini-documentary.

The Blu-ray is marked for all regions.

Movie Introduction (02:14 in HD) – This optional introduction before the film includes director Richard Schenkman and Actor Jon Cryer. It gives some insight into how much this movie meant to the two men.

Audio commentary from director Richard Schenkman and Jon Cryer – An enjoyable, detailed commentary from the two driving creative forces of the movie. This was a personal project for both men and Cryer helped co-write the screenplay. This covers scene-by-scene information on top of wider musings about the production.

“Went to Coney Island… To Make a Movie” Featurette (18:36 in SD) – This archival, behind-the-scenes special feature has several things going for it. It includes a brief recap of Coney Island’s history, important context for the film. Richard Schenkman and Jon Cryer are interviewed separately on various cast members and other topics. Some intriguing footage from the set includes Schenkman directing an actor and other snapshots into the filmmaking process.

“The Producer” (3:00 in SD) – An amusing comedic short film directed by Richard Schenkman about what being a producer entails on a movie.

Photo Gallery

Went To Coney Island… Theatrical Trailer (01:39 in SD)

The Man From Earth Trailer (01:29 in HD)

The Man From Earth Holocene Trailer (01:30 in HD)

  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras

Movie

An endearing comedy about friends growing up together in New York City and discovering that adulthood has its own challenges.

Overall
4
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User Review
5 (1 vote)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 10 Went To Coney Island screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 12,000+ already in our library), exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.