Serendipity (2001)

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Released 12-Nov-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Starz/Encore "On The Set"
Deleted Scenes-9 +/- commentary
Audio Commentary-Peter Chelsom (Director)
Storyboard Comparisons
Theatrical Trailer-2:31
Notes-Director Peter Chelsom's On Set Diary
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 87:02
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (73:41) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Peter Chelsom

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring John Cusack
Kate Beckinsale
Molly Shannon
Jeremy Piven
John Corbett
Bridget Moynahan
Eugene Levy
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Alan Silvestri

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/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
Italian Audio Commentary
Italian Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Are you a hopeless romantic? Yes? Then go away - this film is not for you. Perhaps you should watch My Best Friend's Wedding.

    This film is for hopeful romantics. I'm a hopeful romantic. If you can hope, even with tears in your eyes, then you may be a hopeful romantic. I get told off for it - I get told "you'll be disappointed, things don't turn out for the best". I don't mind disappointment too much - there's always more to hope for...

    Romantic comedies are a delight for hopeful romantics. How do you think we got this way in the first place?

    Serendipity is good stuff. As the director points out, both in the commentary and in the "making of", this film could easily have been dreadful. What rescues it is inspired casting. No one but John Cusack could have played Jonathan with the right blend of intelligence, recklessness, and hope. There are a couple of actresses who might have managed Sara (Gwyneth Paltrow, for one), but Kate Beckinsale is superb. Sara is bright, beautiful, a touch vulnerable, and sort of superstitious about fate. The supporting cast are very good, especially Jeremy Piven as Jonathan's best friend Dean (not a big stretch for him, given that he is John Cusack's best friend...) - he gets some of the best lines in the movie, and his best man's speech is lots of fun.

    What's this movie about? It's about serendipity. They define serendipity as "a fortunate accident". The Macquarie Dictionary defines it as "the faculty of making desirable but unsought-for discoveries" - eesh! I'd describe it more subjectively: serendipity is that moment in time when the hopeful romantic knows all the pessimists in the world are wrong. It's when Murphy's Law loses the bet. When you arrive at the airport early, there's a last-minute cancellation, and you catch the flight that's about to leave. Or you decide to buy a fridge, and arrive at the store to discover that they've just started a big sale, and marked it down by 20%.

    Serendipity is also a cafe in New York. It appears a few times in this film.

    Jonathan and Sara meet by chance in a Christmas shopping rush, in Bloomingdales - they grab the same (last) pair of black cashmere gloves, and argue genteelly over who will get to buy them. They end up in in the coffee shop called Serendipity because that is the price Jonathan charges Sara (a cup of coffee) for allowing her the purchase. They spend hours together, clearly quite attracted to one another, despite admitting to being romantically involved with other people. Sara writes her name and number down, but a random gust blows the scrap of paper away - she takes this as "a sign" (an omen). So she comes up with a solution. She has him write his name and number on a five dollar note, and she spends that note immediately. She also writes her name and number in a book, then sells the book to a second hand book store (without telling him which store). If they are meant to be together, then fate will send the five dollar note to her, or he will find the book.

    Cue the passage of a few years. Now Jonathan is about to marry Halley (Bridget Moynahan), and Sara is about to marry Lars (John Corbett). They both seem happy, but they have a nagging feeling - would they be happier with their long-lost romance?

    I think you can picture where this is going, but that's OK. The enjoyment is in the journey. This one has some delightful twists and turns.

    If you like a good romantic comedy (with a slight emphasis on the romantic over the comedy); if you are a card-carrying hopeful romantic; if you believe nice things can happen to nice people; then I recommend you see this film - I think you'll like it.

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

Transfer Quality


    This film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is very attractive - a tiny touch softer than razor sharp, with excellent shadow detail and no low-level noise.

    Colour is excellent - deep, rich, and vivid, as only a film made fairly recently can be. There are no trace of oversaturation or colour bleed.

    There are no film artefacts (for a film made in 2001 that's unsurprising, but it's still good to see). There is minimal aliasing, no moire, and no shimmer. It's interesting to see in one of the deleted scenes, presented without 16x9 enhancement, that there's some nasty moire on John Cusack's shoulder, including minor false colouration - a rainbow. This artefact does not appear in the main feature (gotta love that 16x9 enhancement!). Basically, this transfer is free of artefacts - nice work.

    There are subtitles in English and Italian. Both subtitles and captions are provided in English, while there are three Italian subtitle tracks. I watched the captions, and checked about 20 minutes of the subtitles in English. They are easy to read, quite accurate, and perfectly timed.

    The disc is single-sided and RSDL-formatted, with the layer change at 73:41. I'm sorry to report, given how good the transfer is, that this is a lousy layer change - it is placed right in the middle of a scene, and takes a long time (as layer changes go).

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


    The English soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1. As well as that, there's an audio commentary in English. I listened to both. There is an Italian 5.1 soundtrack, too.

    The first screen you'll see is a choice of language between Italian and English. The two items on this menu are different colours. When you move the cursor, the colours swap. There is no cue indicating which colour means "choose this one" - with two items, a colour-only menu is really dumb (this is not the only disc to make this mistake, but it really annoyed me, so I'm mentioning it here!). So you know, the blueish highlight indicates selected, and the default selection is Italian. Unless you want Italian, you'll need to press down before hitting Enter.

    The dialogue is never obscured by the score and is clear and easy to understand at all times. There's one very slight audio sync glitch, at roughly 35:06 which is clearly an ADR slip, rather than a mastering issue.

    The musical score is from Alan Silvestri. He's done a good job here, with the music supporting the action. I thought the opening song sounded like Louis Armstrong, and I was pleased to see his name on the credits.

    I have no idea why this is a 5.1 mix - there is no directional sound from the rears, and no call for the subwoofer. It's not like they are missed, though - this movie would have been fine with a stereo soundtrack. The sound is spread nicely across the three front speakers, and that's all we need.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are some interesting extras on this disc - more than the cover reveals, even! The reason is that there are two pages of extras, with progress from the first page to the second indicated by a snowflake (not the most obvious of indications).


    The menu is introduced with a pleasant transition, and has gentle animation and background music.

Commentary - Peter Chelsom (Director)

    This is not a bad commentary - in fact it's reasonably interesting. It's a little repetitious, and overlaps with the making of and director's diary. Not fabulous, but still worth a listen. One thing he talks about at length was some of the difficulties he had choosing the music for the movie, particularly some of the songs.

Featurette - On The Set (20:01)

    This is a "making of", shot for the Starz / Encore cable TV network. Slightly above average quality.

Deleted Scenes (15:49)

    These can be watched with the original dialogue, or with director's commentary - it's worth doing both. You can watch all of them in a row, or choose them individually from a menu (like the bonus features, this menu has two pages, with a snowflake for a "next page" marker)

    The first two scenes were re-shot months after principal photography finished - after watching the original you can see why. In fact, it's fairly clear why these scenes were deleted, but it's fun to see them.

Still Photo Gallery

    This contains a lot of photos - unless I lost count (quite likely!), there are 127 photos here.

Storyboard Comparison - The Dangers of the Driving Range (0:44)

    Not a long comparison.

Theatrical Trailer (2:31)

    Like a lot of trailers, this one has been built using a number of the deleted scenes. Interesting to compare to the finished movie.

Notes - Director's On-Set Diary

    20 pages with the director's thoughts on the shoot as it progressed. There's some overlap with the commentary, but this is fun.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 and Region 4 discs sound like they have the same features (and even the same mistake of only reporting the first page of the extras menu!). Judging by Amazon and IMDB, the R1 even uses the same artwork for the cover. The R1 is scheduled for release in September 2002. Apart from ours being PAL and theirs NTSC, the only difference is that we get English and Italian, while they get English, French, and Spanish.

    I think you could be happy with either version.


    Serendipity is a minor gem of a movie, on an excellent DVD.

    The video quality is superb.

    The audio quality is good.

    The extras are good.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

Other Reviews
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DVD Net - Amy F

Comments (Add)
Serendipity as a Plot Device - Rod W (Suss out my biography if you dare) REPLY POSTED
Now this is a great date movie - Khai L (My biodegradable bio)