"The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia" DVD Review
November 16, 2010 by Zach Demeter
From executive producers Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine (Jackass) comes a shocking and outlandish year-in-the-life documentary about the White Family of Boone County, West Virginia’s most notorious and surly family. The New York Times says that “its governing spirit, captured in the raucous music that punctuates the story… is one of outlaw celebration.”
Shoot-outs, robberies, gas-huffing, drug dealing, pill popping, murders and tap dancing. Nestled deep in the Appalachian Mountains, the White family lives an existence more like something from the Wild West than modern-day suburbified America. The legendary family is as known for their wild, excessive criminal ways as they are for their famous mountain dancing members, including Jesco White, the star of the cult classic documentary Dancing Outlaw. The film follows the Whites over the course of one tumultuous year, as they deal with a stabbing, criminal sentencing, attempted murder, death and birth. Never dull, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Vrginia are “the Hatfields and McCoys all rolled into one” (New York Magazine).
Wow. That’s really all you can say after watching this documentary. It’s one thing to watch a film or TV series where such antics or blatant disregard for human safety is fabricated for the sake of a story, but when you actually watch a documentary about it and real life people are being portrayed…it’s quite a different feeling to witness such things. Even though this is apparently a sequel of sorts to a 1991 documentary entitled The Dancing Outlaw (and by sequel I mean it follows the same family), it really doesn’t require any prior knowledge going into it what it’s about. Having said that, it’s a very interesting documentary if only to behold how this family lives and continues to live; it’s quite remarkable to me that they’ve been able to do all that they do and still remain a fairly large group. I mean the synopsis isn’t kidding when they say that there is murder when it comes to this family—it’s really just a big cesspool of interesting characters.
The whole documentary spans a year in the life of Jesco White and his various family members. We move in and out of homes, hospitals, prisons and rehab and even by the end of the documentary you still get a sense that a lot is left untouched and unsaid. In fact there’s really no focus on this documentary other than the family; there is commentary from local townsfolk, but by and large it’s a fairly unadulterated view of the family. Of course it does make West Virginia look like that’s all there is to it, but when you narrow your scope as the documentary does to this singular family, chances are you’re not going to branch out much. Although there is an interesting bit where we leave West Virginia briefly to Minnesota to check in with one of the White members who was able to build up what some would call a “normal” life.
It’s a wonder this family is even still alive after all you witness throughout this hour and a half documentary. If nothing else it’s all terribly interesting to watch simply from a human point of view—not that I would call the Whites regressed in anyway, but they’re definitely an interesting look into some of the backwoods culture that exists in this country. Worth a Rental.
New Video brings The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Viriginia to DVD in a standard amaray DVD case. Nothing overly special about the presentation of the documentary here—no fancy exterior cardboard slipcase and the cover itself looks rather simplistic. Video and audio is a solid presentation overall and about what you’d expect from a documentary. As can be expected from a documentary the video is in 1.85:1 and the audio is a simple DD2.0 mix.
Extras are pretty hefty and include:
Audio Commentary with Johnny Knoxville and Director Julien Nitzberg
The Woes of the Whites
Do the White Thing: The Making of THE WILD AND WONDERFUL WHITES OF WEST VIRGINIA
The Original Jesco Tapes
Interview with Hank III
Interview with Director Julien Nitzberg
A lot of these are simple featurettes and extended interview segments, but if you were wondering what else there was to his documentary then it’s all pretty well documented here. Between the making-of and the full length commentary there is plenty on this disc to keep you glued to your TV for a couple hours after the first viewing of the documentary—assuming you enjoyed it enough to come back for more, at least.
Overall a disc that’s worth a Rental as I’m not sure if you’d ever want to come back and watch this a second time, but it’s definitely worth checking out at least once.
The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia is now available on DVD.