The Other Sister

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Details At A Glance

Category Romantic Comedy Theatrical Trailer(s) No
Rating Other Trailer(s) No
Year Released 1999 Commentary Tracks No
Running Time 124:49 minutes Other Extras No
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (?)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Garry Marshall
Touchstone Pictures
Warner Home Video
Starring Juliette Lewis
Diane Keaton
Tom Skerritt
Giovanni Ribisi
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $34.95 Music Rachel Portman

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.0
16x9 Enhancement
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.0, 384Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 5.0, 384Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ?Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Carla: "I wonder who thought up sex?"

    Daniel: "I think it was Madonna"

    And with that almost all-time classic line that really had me cracking up big time, my opinion on this film was well and truly changed. Let's face it, the name of director Garry Marshall conjures up the inevitable impression of Pretty Woman and the fact that just about every romantic comedy since that film has to some extent been trying to emulate its easy charm, and generally failing quite miserably. So, when the cover plays up both the romantic comedy aspect and the Garry Marshall name on the film, I start to get just a little wary of what is to come. Indeed, this one was approached in the vein of "another dreary film". Just goes to show that sometimes we should not pre-judge things quite so much. Despite some rather obvious cringe moments, this actually turned out to be an utterly charming film that certainly filled in a couple of hours in a very pleasant way. Even the moralizing that is so obvious throughout the film was almost bearable.

    I am not going to buy into any argument about the merits or otherwise of the suitability or appropriateness of the subject matter. I am vaguely aware of some people insisting that this film is denigrating of the intellectually challenged, but lets face it: the whole concept of being in love is bad enough for those few people who actually have all their faculties working perfectly - just how difficult is it for those who are genuinely intellectually challenged? That really is the premise of the whole film - accepting that intellectually challenged people are actually capable of looking after themselves and being able to handle the tough tasks in life, like love.

    The film starts with young Carla Tate (Juliette Lewis) being sent off to a special school more suited to her intellectual capabilities. Years later, Radley Tate (Tom Skerritt) returns to the school to bring Carla back into the family home and environment. Those years have seen Carla mature into an independent young woman, who recognizes her limitations but does not want to limit her life because of them. Her father and her sisters Caroline (Poppy Montgomery) and Heather (Sarah Paulson) have no problem accepting Carla for what she is, but mother Elizabeth (Diane Keaton) has all the problems in the world. Unfortunately, she also has problems accepting that Heather is a lesbian. Refusing to accept that Carla is a mature woman who understands far more than Elizabeth thinks, the smothering mother routine comes on in a serious way, to the extent that she forces Carla back to the special school. Forced to accept that Carla is an independent woman, we engage in a rather charming and occasionally amusing journey as Carla asserts her independence in going to a normal school, getting her own apartment and falling in love with a fellow intellectually challenged student in Daniel McMann (Giovanni Ribisi) - with mother always at the ready to try and forestall the losing of her special daughter. Surprisingly for a Disney film, this is not all roses and a few warts are thrown into the mix to keep things spiced up - most notably the lesbian partner of Heather and the inability of mother to accept it whilst the supposedly intellectually challenged Carla seems to have no problem with the relationship.

    This is really a very charming film that, at least in my view, handles the subject matter in a beautifully naive manner that leaves no doubt that we do have to reconsider what exactly constitutes "intellectually challenged". Sure it is not the greatest story ever told, but it certainly is given a treatment that drags out as much as it can from the premise of the story. I have never been high on the abilities of Juliette Lewis as an actress, but this performance is wonderfully done and thoroughly convincing. Whilst my experiences with the intellectually challenged (apart from myself) have been limited, from those dealings I find much in Juliette's performance that rings true to life. Giovanni Ribisi is perhaps not quite so compelling as the even more intellectually challenged Daniel, but it is still a fine performance that has more positives than negatives. I would suggest that both of these roles could hardly have been done better. Add into the mix a wonderful performance by Diane Keaton as the smothering mother coming to terms with the independence of her special daughter, as well as the sexual orientation of her eldest daughter and the marriage of her middle daughter, perfectly capturing many a mother that I know. Tom Skerritt is his usual steady self in the role of the suffering husband/father who rises above it all to be there for his daughters. Nicely filmed, it has to be said that Garry Marshall has something of a way with this genre, and this is another good example of it: it has an easy-going charm that is totally believable and thoroughly engaging, all qualities that many other pretenders seem unable to capture. No, it is not a remake of Pretty Woman, but like that film and Runaway Bride, The Other Sister has a distinctly engaging personality to it. If this engaging personality could be boiled down to one scene, it is that of Carla and Daniel working through The Joys of Sex, finding possible techniques with which to pop the cherry - at Thanksgiving, no less - during which the memorable quote came.

    After a sequence of reviews of films that left me somewhat cold, it has been a distinct pleasure to come to The Other Sister and enjoy two hours of entertainment. Never to be remembered as a classic, it is the sort of film that can be pulled out every so often and enjoyed enormously. Well worth the effort of a view or three.

Transfer Quality


    It is almost damning praise of Disney that they seem to have mastered the decent if unspectacular video transfer technique. This is not a transfer that is going to get the old "wow-o-meter" hitting unheard-of peaks and that is about the worst thing you can say about this effort.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    Whilst it is not the sharpest transfer I have ever seen and it is not the most detailed transfer I have ever seen, I also have little recollection of there being too much actually wrong with the transfer. It is simply a decent transfer, nicely sharp without being too sharp and nicely detailed without being too detailed. Shadow detail was good, if not especially breathtaking and the overall effect is of an eminently watchable transfer with little to complain about. It is a generally clear transfer with little if any problem with grain, and low level noise does not seem to be a problem in the transfer at all.

    Colours are quite natural, nothing too forced but perhaps lacking just a little in vibrancy. Skin tones were well handled throughout and there was nothing much adrift with the depth of the blacks. Oversaturation did not appear to be an issue in the transfer at all, not were there any problems with colour bleed.

    There are no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Apart from some rather minor aliasing that could hardly be considered distracting, there were no real problems with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, and this is another recent film that is free of any serious film artefacts.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc, but once again I failed to notice where the layer change occurred. Must have been another good one.


    I suppose the lack of a bass channel in the soundtrack is liable to cause some concern to some people, but this really is a film that does not need one and so I have no problems with this being a straight Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack.

    There are two audio tracks on the DVD, both in Dolby Digital 5.0: the English default soundtrack and an Italian soundtrack. Not having much of a grasp of conversational Italian, I stuck with the English soundtrack.

    Dialogue was generally clear and easy to understand.

    There did not appear to be any problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    The original music score comes from Rachel Portman. It is a barely noticeable effort. Much of the orchestral music seems to be excerpts from well-known pieces (wedding marches especially), to which is added an eclectic mix of marching band music, blues and a bit of Dixieland stuff. Hardly the best that I ever heard but not the worst either.

    Since we are blessed with only a Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack, I would have thought that we would have got one with just a bit more in the way of rear channel ambience. Most of the action in this soundtrack comes from the front of the stage with the rears being almost missing in action. Still, the overall effect is quite decent and there is hardly any room for complaint as far as this effort goes as it stands. It certainly could have been better, though.


    Others may be making improvements in this area, but Buena Vista are sticking to their guns in refusing to give anything remotely approaching an extra - not even the theatrical trailer.


    Basically a repeat of the front slip cover. Nothing remarkable on offer here and in the immortal words of Constable Bar Brady of South Park fame: nothing to see here, move along please.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 release misses out on:     The Region 1 release misses out on:     I think that I would willingly forgo the music videos to get the 16x9 enhancement: another Region 4 winner here folks.


    The Other Sister is a film that I approached with a hefty dose of trepidation and ended up enjoying an awful lot. Not a classic film by any stretch of the imagination but a nice way to spend a couple of hours of your time. Well worth consideration for adding to the collection.

    A good video transfer.

    A good audio transfer.

    An extras package? Yeah, right.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
7th August 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL