Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

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Released 6-Feb-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Booklet
Featurette-Exclusive Documentary
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Hook
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 100:31
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (69:19) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Robert Benton
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Dustin Hoffman
Meryl Streep
Jane Alexander
Justin Henry
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $36.95 Music Antonio Vivaldi
Henry Purcell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (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
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
Bulgarian
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) and Joanna Kramer (Meryl Streep) are from New York. They have been married for over 7 years and have one son, Billy (Justin Henry). Ted is a career-centric advertising exec who spends his days working long hours and his life at home planning for his next day at work. His wife and son are lifestyle accessories. After months of heartbreak and depression, Joanna drops a bombshell. On the day Ted learns that he has been given a promotion and been put in charge of his firm's largest account, he comes home to find that his wife is leaving him, and not taking their son Billy with her. Overnight, Ted's world is turned upside down. Stumbling under the double weight of career and parental pressure, Ted's career life begins to falter.

    Balancing out the downslide of his job performance is the growing bond between Ted and Billy. They develop a new relationship with each other and while Billy misses his mother, both father and son find themselves in a familiar routine, sometimes like father and son, sometimes more like a married couple because of how at ease and familiar they are with each other.

    After almost a year, Joanna reappears on the scene. She has been in California, has been going to therapy, has a new job and now is looking to gain custody of her son. Then begins the terrible legal tug of war between the Kramers for their only son.

    This film is set at the end of the "We" generation and the beginning of the "Me" generation; when the divorce rate in the U.S. hit its peak at almost 50%. This is probably why it was so relevant to the moviegoing public at its release. It struck a chord with the viewer with a subject that until then hadn't been dealt with in a such a high profile manner.

    Director Robert Benton adapted the screenplay from Avery Corman's novel with Dustin Hoffman specifically in mind as Ted Kramer. Hoffman himself was going through a divorce at the time and he brings much of his personal experience to the screen. Young (at the time) actor Justin Henry is fantastic as Billy. The chemistry between Henry and Hoffman is incredible. Their sometimes improvised dialogue and scenes work to spectacular effect. The supporting actors are all stand-outs with Justin Henry, Jane Alexander, and Meryl Streep all nominated for Best Supporting Actor/Actress Academy Awards (Meryl Streep going on to win).

    Kramer vs. Kramer is a wonderful character driven piece that tells a sometimes sad, sometimes tragic, sometimes funny and sometimes all-too-true tale without becoming too melodramatic. Does it stand up to today's audience? Probably. It does look a bit dated and some of the dialogue harks back to a bygone era (I haven't heard the term "women's lib" for years), but the relationships portrayed and the emotions conveyed still ring true today.

    Funnily enough, this film was up against the classic Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now for the Best Picture stakes in 1979. Somehow, though, I don't think we'll be seeing Kramer vs. Kramer Redux any time soon. In the end, Kramer vs. Kramer was nominated for 9 Oscars and won 5, not 6 as the souvenir booklet enclosed with the disc says. Apocalypse Now won for Cinematography, not Kramer vs. Kramer. Kramer vs. Kramer won the Best Picture, Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman), Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Director (Robert Benton), and Best Screenplay (Robert Benton) Oscars. No sharks, no U.F.O.s, no helicopters, no singing and dancing, just great performances all around. After all this time, it is still a movie worth seeing.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Despite all the advertising in the lead up to this film and the others in the Academy Award Winners DVD Collection, this is not a special edition. The quality of the transfer is not what you would call reference standard. While it is watchable and looks much better than any VHS copy you might find at the local video shop, this film has not been given any sort of restoration and it is in need of it.

    The transfer is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The picture seen throughout this feature tends to drift from reasonably clear to hazy and almost out of focus, sometimes within the same scene. There are some out of focus problems in some of the close-ups, as if the focus puller loses it just for a second. This only happens a couple of times during the film and is not overly distracting. There is a definite lack of clarity and detail at times, especially during some of the darker scenes.

    The colour in this transfer is quite subdued. While this can be intentional in the case of titles such as SE7EN and The Matrix, I really don't believe that was the intention here. The colour seems to have faded with age. In the light of other classic films like Lawrence of Arabia and Cleopatra, both much older films available on DVD, this did not need to be the case.

    There are no real issues with MPEG artefacts with this transfer.

    Film artefacts are few and minor with this title, other than the normal sprinkling of spots and nicks that we see from time to time in transfers of this vintage.

    The English subtitles for this film are of reasonable accuracy, although not word for word.

    The layer change is placed at 69:19 between Chapters 19 and 20 and is in a spot in the movie where the film fades to black between scenes. It is perfectly placed and does not disrupt the film in any way.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio for this disc is in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. As is the case with the film's transfer, so it is with the sound. At the least you would have hoped for a stereo remix of the soundtrack. The movie doesn't lend itself to active use of the rear channels or the subwoofer, but at the bare minimum a 2 channel stereo mix would have added a nice touch of atmosphere. In the end, I watched this film with Pro Logic mode enabled which spread the 2.0 mono soundtrack across the front three channels with the dialogue accurately centered.

    The disc gives you the option of 5 languages, all in 2.0 mono including English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

    Dialogue throughout the film is at all times quite clear and understandable, which is good for such a dialogue based film. Audio sync during the feature was good with no issues of note. I also sampled the Italian soundtrack, and found it to be quite accurate for a dub with good lip syncing.

    Music is sparsely used in this movie, and is comprised of original classical compositions from Antonio Vivaldi and Henry Purcell.

    As this is a 2.0 mono soundtrack, the surrounds were inactive during the film.

    The subwoofer was only called for once during the film during a Christmas party scene. It was silent for the rest of the movie.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The disc has a few extras, the main one being a 50 minute documentary entitled "Finding the Truth:  Making Kramer vs. Kramer".

Menu

    The menus are static shots featuring the principal cast. The menu choices are; Play Movie, Languages / Audio Set Up, Subtitles, Special Features, and Scene Selections.

    The menu selections are well set out and easy to use. The menus are 16x9 enhanced.

Featurette - Finding The Truth: Making Kramer vs. Kramer

    In the absence of an audio commentary (which for this film is a sad thing because all the principal cast & crew connected with the film are still with us) this documentary serves us with a behind the scenes look at the production of the film. All the major players give their personal recollections about the making of the movie and how it all came into being. I found it to be very informative and entertaining; a reasonable substitute for that missing commentary track. The audio for the documentary is in 2.0 stereo and is not 16x9 enhanced.

Trailer   

    We get the original trailer in 2.0 mono. It is a full frame trailer and is not 16x9 enhanced.

Bonus Trailer

    Included is a bonus trailer for Hook, obviously included because of Dustin Hoffman's starring role. It is a full screen trailer in 2.0 stereo and is not 16x9 enhanced.

Cast & Crew Biographies

R4 vs R1

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

    The basic content of the R4 disc is the same as the R1. The R4 disc comes out ahead with more language options (we get German and Italian) and many more subtitle choices. However, the Region 1 disc features a trailer for the Dustin Hoffman film Hero which is known as Accidental Hero in Australia. I am inclined to call this one a draw.

Summary

    Kramer vs. Kramer is an important film that has taken too long to see the light of day on DVD. It is a shame that more care and time hasn't been spent to present this film in the best way possible. Like other films we have seen come to DVD in recent times, we are probably destined to see a Special Collectors Edition of this film with a restored print and 5.1 soundtrack and a myriad of extra features never before available. It is a shame that we didn't get it this time around. Great film, though.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Saturday, February 23, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic A300-MU, using S-Video output
DisplayHitachi CP-L750W LCD Projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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