America's Sweethearts (2001)

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Released 29-Apr-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Menu Animation & Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Deleted Scenes-5 +/- director's commentary
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-My Best Friend's Wedding; Sleepless In Seattle; Stepmom
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 99:03
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (52:24) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Joe Roth
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Julia Roberts
Billy Crystal
Catherine Zeta-Jones
John Cusack
Hank Azaria
Stanley Tucci
Christopher Walken
Seth Green
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music James Newton Howard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Hindi
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    America's Sweethearts borrows a leaf from Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's infamous break-up, not to mention stealing the basic plot from Singing In The Rain. Eddie Thomas (John Cusack) and Gwen Harrison (Catherine Zeta-Jones) are famous actors who were married to each other. They have starred as romantic couples in numerous successful movies (incidentally, the film opens with "excerpts" from these movies, and they appear to be spoofs of scenes from real films such as the New York autumn walk in the park scene from When Harry Met Sally, Trinity waking up Neo with a kiss in The Matrix, etc.).

    However, they have now broken up and are not doing too well alone. Eddie is holed up in some new age recovery clinic, and has been legally restrained from approaching Gwen, due to an unfortunate incident involving Eddie riding a bike straight into a restaurant where Gwen was dining along with her new Spanish lover Hector (Hank Azaria). By the way, the scene of Eddie in the rain just before he gets on the bike looks like it's a spoof of Bladerunner. If you are starting to get the impression this film contains a lot of spoofs of other films then you are correct.

    Gwen, on the other hand, has been making several movies since the break-up which have all bombed at the box office. She goes on the Larry King Live talkback show, and the audience keep ringing to tell her they wish she and Eddie would get back together again.

    So, enter Lee Phillips (Billy Crystal), studio publicist extraordinaire, except he's just been fired by the studio head Dave Kingman (Stanley Tucci). He is busy packing up and handing his role to apprentice successor Danny Wax (Seth Green), when Kingman abruptly begs him to come back.

    Reclusive eccentric director Hal Weidmann (Christopher Walken) is holding the final print of his latest film ("Time Over Time") hostage and refuses to show it to anyone before the press junket promoting the film. This film also happens to be the last film starring Eddie and Gwen prior to their break-up, so needless to say Kingman desperately wants it at any cost.

    Lee's job is to organise the press junket and to cover up the fact that the film is missing and no one knows what it's like. He gets bonus points if he can somehow convince the public that Eddie and Gwen are getting back together again, or at least thinking about it.

    He enlists the help of Gwen's sister Kiki (Julia Roberts) who is Gwen's downtrodden much abused "assistant" as well as her sister. He manage to get them to agree to show up at the press junket, and he organises a set of "distractions" to keep the press occupied until the film arrives.

    Will Eddie and Gwen actually get back together again? Or will Eddie fall for Kiki? And, why is Weidmann so mysteriously coy about the new film?

    Given that this film is co-written and co-produced by Billy Crystal (who is obviously cashing in on his experience hosting one Grammy awards night after another), as well as featuring a star-studded cast, it's quite surprising how disappointing the film really is. The laughs are few and far in between, and most of the situations look awkward and contrived, not to mention boring in places. Although the film has a few twists, the ending is pretty obvious. Verdict? A missed opportunity and a waste of some good talent.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a very pleasing 16x9 enhanced transfer presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The film source is pristine, resulting in a highly detailed picture with strongly saturated colours and deep blacks.

     Indeed, the colours are so rich at times that the flesh colours seem a bit too golden for my liking. Also, background objects like walls and sky appear to be on the verge of breaking into grain though never quite getting there.

    There has been a moderate level of edge enhancement applied during the telecine transfer, resulting in minor MPEG artefacts such as ringing and Gibb's effect. I did not notice any aliasing although the closing titles exhibit very minor shimmering as they scroll across the screen. I can also find very slight evidence of pixelization of background blurry objects but never to the point of distraction.

    Overall, I would say the transfer is of very high quality and will not disappoint anyone.

    The disc comes with both English and English for the Hearing Impaired subtitle tracks, as well as Spanish and Hindi. I turned on both English subtitle tracks briefly. The English subtitle track is pretty basic, and features a nice bold font just below the picture frame. The English for the Hearing Impaired track features a "courier-like" fixed spacing font that takes up several lines on the screen. Both seem reasonably accurate.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL) - the layer change occurs at 52:24 at the end of a scene and is mildly disruptive due to the screen freezing for a significant portion of a second.

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

Audio

    There are two audio tracks on this disc: both in Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s): English and Spanish. I listened to the English audio track.

    In general this is a typically dialogue oriented front-focused film but some care has been taken to use the rear speakers where they make sense, such as some very directional panning of the helicopter descending onto the hotel (78:54-79:05). The rear speakers are also used fairly continuously but subtly for music and dialogue ambience.

    The dialogue was synced and easy to understand throughout the film, although sounding just a bit "thin" to my ears. In general, I think this is a fairly "thin" and "light" sounding soundtrack, with even the sound effects sounding a bit muffled, as if they are being played behind thick curtains.

    The original music score by James Newton Howard is typical orchestral romantic comedy fare and sounds intentionally derivative of scores for typical "Hollywood" movies.

    The subwoofer track must have been very lightly used, as my subwoofer actually switched off about 30 minutes into the film and I can't recall it switching back on.

   

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

Extras

    For a rental release, the number of extras of this disc is not too shabby - basically roughly equivalent to the Region 1 sell-through release. I suspect the sell-through release will contain identical features.

Menu

    The menus are 16x9 enhanced. The main menu is animated and contains background audio. The Special Features menu contains background audio. All other menus are static.

Dolby Digital Trailer - City

    This is the standard non 16x9 enhanced DD trailer, designed to wake the subwoofer up before commencement of the main feature :-)

Deleted Scenes - 5 +/- director's commentary

    This is a set of deleted scenes, which can be viewed by themselves or prefaced by a short video segment of director Joe Roth providing a brief commentary on the scene and why it was deleted.

    The commentary video is in full frame, the deleted scenes themselves are in 2.35:1 but without 16x9 enhancement. The audio track is Dolby Digital 3.0 (L-R-Surr).

    The transfer quality of the deleted scenes are quite high - on par with that for the film, and the commentary videos indicate that these have been sourced from an HDTV transfer.

Theatrical Trailer (2:22)

    The trailer consists of excerpts from the film reformatted into a 1.85:1 aspect ratio (with 16x9 enhancement) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Trailer - My Best Friend's Wedding (2:19); Sleepless In Seattle (2:31); Stepmom (2:22)

    The disc also includes a number of trailers for other films, two of them featuring Julia Roberts. I can't quite work out why Sleepless in Seattle was included though, as I don't see any overlap in cast and crew between that film and America's Sweethearts.

    Given that this is a Billy Crystal film, I would have thought it more sensible to include trailers for other Billy Crystal films, like The Princess Bride (oops, forgot, not out on Region 4 yet), When Harry Met Sally (oops, different studio), or even Forget Paris (oops, forgot - it was a bomb). Hmm, maybe that's why Sleepless In Seattle was included ...

Filmographies - Cast & Crew

    This consists of a set of stills (16x9 enhanced) providing abbreviated filmographies plus mug shots for the following cast & crew:

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this disc is a currently a rental only release and misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    Both versions seem to be substantially the same, however only the Region 1 disc is available for purchase at present. The Region 1 disc apparently does not switch layers during the film (as the widescreen and pan & scan transfers are stored in their entirety on separate layers) - this will give a more seamless viewing experience though I suspect at the expense of transfer quality (but I am unable to verify this as I don't have access to a copy of the Region 1 version).

Summary

    America's Sweethearts has all the right ingredients for success - Billy Crystal as a co-producer and co-writer, a star-studded cast, a plot derived from Singing In The Rain, ... What could go wrong? Well, something did go wrong because the film fails to score and I found it disappointing, though it is easy to watch and should be suitable for viewing on a plane to while away 2 hours.

    The video transfer is of consistently high quality, and the audio transfer sounds nice though somewhat "thin" and lacklustre.

    For a rental release, the number of extras are comparable to the Region 1 sell-through release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Monday, March 18, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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region4dvd.net - Darren R (read my bio (fun for the whole family))
The DVD Bits - Damien M
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Magalie S
Web Wombat - James A

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