Sneakers [Collector's Edition] [DVD] 
- SKU: 5535502
- Release Date: 06/03/2003
Phil Alden Robinson's Sneakers finally gets the treatment it deserves on this Collector's Edition release, five years after its first appearance on DVD and 11 years after its original release. The disc comes loaded with so much material that it represents almost a technological jump over the old release -- except that this technology was there, just not used. Among the bonus features, the most enjoyable is the 40-minute featurette "The Making of Sneakers," which reveals the movie's origins a decade before its release, during the making of WarGames. Robinson, Lawrence Lasker, and Walter F. Parkes tell of the ten years it took (while working on other movies) to get the film written and then produced, while moving from one studio to another (Paramount lost it, Universal ultimately got it). In the course of getting it made, they all got to be older than the oldest character in the script -- an irony that wasn't lost on them. There are also interviews with various experts in such fields as number theory and telephone hacking (the legendary John Draper (aka "Captain Crunch") who was partly the basis for the Dan Aykroyd character), and cast members Robert Redford, Mary McDonnell, and David Strathairn -- we find out that Carl, the youngest of the hackers, was the character with which the filmmakers most identified. There's a certain sadness in seeing River Phoenix in his interview sequences, but the making-of film is still an unabashed delight.
The audio commentary by Robinson, Lasker, and Parkes offers its own enjoyment, although it will be of slightly more interest to professionals -- filmmakers, screenwriters, producers, actors, critics, etc. -- than to the casual viewer. In the first two minutes, we learn that there was a major change made in the plot because the original story had the Redford and Ben Kingsley characters accidentally killing a man, which they realized would make Redford's character irredeemable in the eyes of filmgoers. Instead, they changed his indiscretion to hacking into Richard Nixon's personal bank account and transferring funds to the Black Panthers and other leftist organizations of the late '60s, and that change linked the movie's opening to its finish. The discussion is filled with little bits of information like that, all presented in a lighthearted tone; unlike some writers and directors discussing their work, these guys never fool themselves into thinking they were writing, or even pondering, Hamlet.
As for the film-to-video transfer, the newer disc's image does seem to offer a lot more picture information -- and a generally brighter picture -- than the original DVD release; both are letterboxed in the non-anamorphic ratio of 1.85:1. There is also a trailer. The only thing missing from this new edition is some acknowledgement of James Horner's excellent score. The producers have used the same 16-chapter breakdown that was utilized for the 1998 edition.