DVD review – Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut (2001), Region 4, Madman

The original Donnie Darko is a wonderfully atmospheric film that explores reality and insanity within a psuedo-science-fiction/teen-film framework. Writer/director Richard Kelly’s ambiguous debut film is a clever and moving story about troubled teenager Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) who may or may not be delusional and receiving commands from a prophetic giant bunny rabbit.

Kelly’s new Director’s Cut contains several new scenes, special effects, sound design and song placements. The extra scenes enhancing Donnie’s relationship with his family are successful but overall the pace has become languid and the film has lost much of its charm. The original mystique is replaced with a “science-fiction comic book narrative” that is condescendingly literal, highly pretentious and very nerdy.

The extras, comprising a second disk, are largely unremarkable except for a hilarious fan made “Darkomentary”, which sends up the frenzied and tedious obsession that Donnie Darko inspires from those who have naively described it as the most profound film ever.

Donnie Darko is a terrific film and has not been completely ruined by Kelly’s tinkering. However do what you can to avoid this “remix version” and get your hands on the original version, which now appears to have been a complete fluke for Kelly.

Director’s cut – 

Original version –

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 222, 2005

© Thomas Caldwell, 2005