Sony has made such a big deal of the PSP’s ability to show movies that I’ve felt compelled to give it a whirl. The catalog of films available in UMD format is still pretty small, consisting exclusively of films distributed by Sony Pictures, natch. The movie I ended up renting, Charlie’s Angels, turns out to be pretty decent watching on a mobile device. It’s got lots of action sequences and explosions that make the most of the digital display, and its broad visual style means that you’re not really missing anything on the PSP’s teeny tiny screen.

The weird thing about watching feature films on the PSP is that you end up treating portable video like a portable game or portable text (back in my day, we called that “books”), as something to be picked up and put down at will. When home video first gained popularity, critics clicked their tongues at the TV-ization of film: instead of being a medium of complete immersion, watched on a big screen in a darkened room, movies were now subject to all the distractions that surround you in your home; this was going to lead to shortened attention spans, movies that think they’re TV shows, and the downfall of both Hollywood and western civilization. (That last sentence was supposed to be sarcastic, but when you think about it, the critics may not have been that far off.) The PSP seems like another step in this direction, away from the womb-like atmosphere of the movie theater and towards the multimedia hurly-burly of the home and the street.

Of course, there’s plenty of room in the world for all kinds of movies; it’s mostly a matter of finding out what kinds of films fit best with each platform. A breezy, episodic, girl-power romp like Charlie’s Angels works pretty well on the PSP, but I’m not exactly rushing out to watch more full-length films on the device. On the other hand, if I could download and watch shorter pieces without having to jump through a bunch of hoops, that would be another matter altogether; Homestar Runner on the PSP would be a surefire hit. Maybe PSP Connect or some other video download site will figure out how to make that work.