Mermaids (1990)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 17-Nov-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 105:42
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:58) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Richard Benjamin

Starring Cher
Bob Hoskins
Winona Ryder
Michael Schoeffling
Christina Ricci
Caroline McWilliams
Jan Miner
Betsy Townsend
Richard McElvain
Paula Plum
Dossy Peabody
William Paul Steele
Rex Trailer
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Jack Nitzsche

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Poor Daniel B copped a lemon when he reviewed Mermaids (2003). Let me assure you that this particular Mermaids is indeed the feature film with Bob Hoskins, Cher, Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci.

     Our story is narrated by the angst-filled teenaged Charlotte Flax (Ryder), who is exasperated by the tendency of her mother (Cher) to move house (and state) as soon as the bin's full, or (more likely) as soon as her latest entanglement with a married boss starts to unravel. Mrs Flax, as Charlotte disparagingly refers to her mother Rachel, is a peripatetic soul, whose only answer to life's challenges is to leave them behind. For Charlotte, the only consolation to her most unsatisfactory lifestyle is her adoration of her little sister, Kate (Ricci), on whom she dotes. In spite of their Jewish origins, Charlotte is obsessed with the mysteries, icons and rites of the Catholic Church. Its rituals of penitence and martyrdom fascinate her and she can relate the history and grisly fate of each of the martyred saints in all their goriest detail.

     As we are introduced to the Flax girls, mother and daughter are embroiled in conflict again, as they find themselves in a new home and a new state, this time Massachusetts. The brooding teenager and her charismatic mother have very different priorities of need as they set up their new home. Charlotte needs grounding, Rachel needs distraction and action. Their conflict spills over as the family goes to buy shoes, particularly when Rachel does nothing to deflect the more-than-professional attention she receives from the shoe store owner, Lou Landsky (Hoskins). This particularly galls Charlotte, who carries a fantasy in her heart that the father she never knew will one day come back and complete her family and her longing.

     She regards her mother's acceptance of Lou's advances with disdain, whilst at the same time harbouring a guilt-ridden romantic obsession with young Joe Porretti (Michael Schoeffling) - a young local man with a past who works as a handyman at the nearby convent (perfect!).

     As they become more entrenched in this small town, Rachel and Lou spend more and more time together. He is besotted with Rachel, and becoming closer to the girls, none of which is really part of Rachel's game plan. She is reluctant to engage in any form of long term arrangement (even the meals she serves are finger food - in her estimation - anything else smacks too much of a commitment), and does not want to include anyone else in her family.

     The dilemmas and dramas of Rachel and Charlotte play out as the opposite extremes of a similar persona. Whilst Rachel is winsome, free-spirited and charismatic, and Charlotte is repressed, ultraconservative and introverted, both are utterly flamboyant and solipsistically theatrical. Each of them engage in outrageous flights of dramatic fancy that frequently have momentous impact on those around them whilst, in the main, they emerge relatively unscathed from their melodramatic follies.

     That is, until little Kate has a mishap of her own, with potentially devastating consequences. For the first time, neither Rachel nor Charlotte have control over their own destinies; and they do not handle it well. Whilst they wrestle with their guilt and grief by engaging in the b****y blame-fest from hell, it's Lou who attends to the practical details.

     This is a stylish Hollywood set-piece that is better than average overall. The leads all turn in excellent performances, and whilst the conclusion was probably never in much doubt, it is a sufficiently engaging film to warrant lazy Sunday afternoon standby status. It bears watching more than once and is sufficiently quirky to maintain audience satisfaction. I quite enjoyed revisiting the film.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 16x9 enhanced.

     The transfer itself suffers mild compression which affects its sense of depth and creates a slightly masking effect, although underlying sharpness remains. The opening credits show evidence of telecine wobble and the shadow detail leaves a little to be desired. I have seen much worse presentations than this, but the fact remains that these elements are present. Grain levels are generally very good.

     The colour range is rather curious - there appears to be a strong greenish cast, although in fully lit scenes the colours are quite rich and saturated.

     This presentation is largely artefact free with the exception of some minor speckling and dust and scratches. There is some aliasing as well.

     This is a dual layered disc, with the layer change at 64:58 but it presents no distraction at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The soundtrack is delivered in English Dolby Digital 2.0, German Dolby Digital 2.0, French Dolby Digital 2.0, Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0.

     The dialogue is easy to understand at all times and the audio sync presents no problems. There is an extensive range of subtitles on offer, and the English subs are quite clean and clear, though a little abbreviated at times.

     The original music is by Jack Nitzsche and the score bubbles along quite nicely throughout the film. The big hit that Cher had with In His Kiss really serves as an afterthought in this presentation, but the existing music within the film felt perfectly appropriate.

     The use of surround is surprisingly good for a 2.0 production in that there was still a sense of depth within the soundscape, however, there's a bit of an audio nasty at around 24:40 when the sound becomes quite buzzy and thin for a short time. This problem seems to self-correct, and I heard no further evidence of it throughout the remainder of the presentation.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     The menu is static and silent.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

      With the exception of the provision of a Theatrical Trailer on the R1 version, there seems little to separate the two. I doubt I would sacrifice a PAL presentation over an NTSC one for the sake of a trailer, so it's R4 for me.


     Screened in 1990, Mermaids has held back the years pretty well I'd say. The performances are uniformly good, Hoskins particularly having a whale of a time. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
Speakers fronts-paradigm titans, centre &rear Sony - radio parts subbie

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE