Housesitter (1992)

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Released 1-Aug-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Production Notes
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:40)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 97:20
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (53:24) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Frank Oz
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Steve Martin
Goldie Hawn
Dana Delany
Julie Harris
Donald Moffat
Peter MacNicol
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $24.95 Music Miles Goodman


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
French
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Swedish
Norwegian
German
Dutch
Czech
Polish
Turkish
Hungarian
Bulgarian
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    In a month noted for a whole batch of comedy DVDs from Universal, it would be difficult to suggest which of them is the best. All have their merits, but I have always enjoyed the comedic talents of Steve Martin and thus I would possibly argue in favour of Housesitter as the best of the batch. Of course, one of the reasons why I would argue against Housesitter is the presence of Goldie Hawn, who I tend to find more grating than funny. But counterbalancing the presence of the prototypical ditzy blond from Saturday Night Live is the rather delectable Dana Delany, who rose to fame in the television series China Beach (now when do we expect to see that on DVD?) and basically fell back to earth when that show was canned. Whilst that might be a bit of an unfair description of her career, she certainly has not made too many memorable films and this is arguably one of the few that deserves to be remembered. The point being therefore that this is on the one hand a film that I tend to enjoy an awful lot, but equally one where if I am not in the right sort of mood I will resort to throwing marshmallows at the television screen.

    This instalment in the romantic comedy genre sees going-nowhere architect Newton Davis (Steve Martin) springing the biggest surprise upon his childhood sweetheart Becky (Dana Delany), in the small town of Dobbs Mill where they grew up. It is a dream realised by Davis (no one but his father calls him Newton) as he proposes to Becky in front of the dream home he has designed and built as a wedding gift - a gift complete with enormous ribbon. Becky might have been surprised by the proposal, but she soon gathers herself and answers a resounding no. Months later and Davis is still moping around Boston where he works, with the still-empty house in Dobbs Mill as a constant reminder of Becky's unwavering answer. Even the pleadings of his friend Marty (Peter MacNicol) to basically get laid have no effect upon him, and all appears lost until he meets Gwen (Goldie Hawn) at a do after the latest architectural triumph of the company he works for. He takes a fancy to Gwen and regales her with the story of his life, and Becky's part in it, as well as about the house. Now Gwen is a bit of a wandering spirit and she is a little taken by Davis' story, so she heads off to Dobbs Mill to check out the house. Of course, she does more than check out the house, for she moves in and proceeds to endear herself to the small community, especially as she decides to proclaim herself as Davis' wife. This is of course news to Davis when he returns to Dobbs Mill to sell the house. But he changes his mind about calling her bluff when he sees that as a result of befriending Gwen, Becky is seeing a whole new side to Davis that she has never known before and seems to be rather jealous of Gwen's grabbing of Davis. Davis of course now sees Gwen as a means to an end inasmuch as it gives him a way to get Becky. Only trouble is - does he really feel nothing for Gwen?

    Certainly in a genre blessed with an enormous number of entries, this is not exactly a stellar entry. It is however a more-than-competent entry and remains a film that I can return to on a regular basis. But then again, everything basically works well in achieving that end. The setting in Massachusetts is an excellent one, as it gives the small town feeling so easily (it is one of my favourite parts of the United States), as well as providing the gorgeous autumnal backdrop to the film. The story is nicely crafted, without being too banal, and is well brought to life by some good, if not especially idiomatic, performances. Steve Martin is as ever a good, steady, reliable lead and he manages to inject Newton Davis with just the right sort of ordinary bloke attributes as to make this a totally believable character. Like most men, he has no idea of how to deal with the women around him. Goldie Hawn plays the ditzy blonde so well that she was perfect for this role as usual. Now some might find her type-casting as a ditzy blonde more than adequate, but I find it just plain annoying at times. This is almost one of those times. Dana Delany is certainly not the greatest actress that the world has ever known and basically all she needs to do here is turn up every so often and look good. She obviously can truly excel at looking good, but really the Becky character ends up being rather underdeveloped. If you want to see quality acting then perhaps you would need to be looking in a different area than this film, even though veterans Julie Harris and Donald Moffat flesh out Newton Davis' parents quite well indeed. Quite well directed by Frank "Sesame Street" Oz, and quite well filmed overall, this really ends up being a good if ultimately unspectacular entry in the romantic comedy ledger.

    It is by no means a gut-busting type of comedy, and if you need plenty of hearty, guttural laughs than you need to look elsewhere. If you just need ninety odd minutes of generally easy-on-the-brain entertainment, then there is plenty to enjoy here.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    After the relatively decent offering of Dragnet on DVD, I was perhaps expecting somewhat better here. After all, Housesitter is five years younger, it is presented on a dual layer DVD rather than a single layer DVD and it is four minutes shorter than the previously reviewed film. So why does this look worse than the earlier reviewed film? Sorry, I don't have an answer but I do know that I was so underwhelmed by certain aspects of the DVD that I actually resorted to digging out my old Very Hazy System tape of the film for comparative purposes!

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

    Once again, this is another generally sharp and quite well detailed transfer that broadly does enough to make this an eminently watchable transfer. Sure, there are a few lapses here and there but overall this does not suffer the same sorts of issues as the previously-reviewed Dragnet. Detail is good throughout, and there really are no complaints in this regard at all. Shadow detail was generally very good, although the film is not one that has much in the way of darker portions of the frame anyway. The one great issue with the transfer, however, is the constant presence of grain to varying degrees, and this was more than a little annoying. It robbed the film of any sort of consistent clarity, and this is highlighted for a few minutes after 66:30 when the grain seems to disappear pretty much, leaving a very nice, sharp, clear picture. Of course, this did not continue for too long and only serves to highlight how average the rest of the transfer is. There did not appear to be any problems with low level noise in the transfer.

    The colours on offer are undersaturated throughout - sometimes to an alarming degree. It was this aspect of the transfer that I just had to compare to the old Very Hazy System tape, for I remembered this being a more colourful film. My suspicions were not confirmed, as the Very Hazy System tape, whilst obviously suffering tonal solidity issues, is certainly no more colourful looking (and as an aside, did we really watch the Very Hazy System and think it was quite good?). Whether this is the result of source material problems or not, the result on DVD robs the film of much of the gorgeous colour that was the aim of the autumnal setting in Massachusetts, which is enormously disappointing. There is a distinct lack of tonal depth here too, so colours tend to vary a little, as well as lacking anything in the way of vibrancy. The result is a slightly unnatural, overexposed look at times. Between 69:30 and 71:30, there was a rather unnatural white ghostly flare to the white shirt worn by Steve Martin. There is nothing in the way of oversaturation in the transfer, not unexpected in this predominantly undersaturated effort. There are no issues with colour bleed in the transfer.

    There does not appear to be any issue with MPEG artefacts in the transfer, other than some slight inherent loss of resolution in some pan shots. Film-to-video artefacts were a little more obvious than I was expecting here, mainly in the form of background shimmer (or in one case at 61:55, foreground shimmer) but with some more traditional aliasing issues in the likes of car grilles and trim. There was a fair sprinkling of film artefacts throughout the transfer, but none that were especially noticeable and distracting.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming mid-scene at 53:24, during a shot of Dana Delany. Whilst it is mid-scene, it is not that disruptive even though it is a bit noticeable.

    The subtitle options on the DVD are quite extensive, but I stuck to sampling the English subtitles. On the evidence of the fifteen minute sample of the English subtitles, these are very good with only relatively modest truncating. Interestingly, the font for the English subtitles is much larger than that used for all the other options, and perhaps had the same, slightly smaller font been used, then the truncating would have been lessened.

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

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, being Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtracks in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish. I of course stuck with my native tongue and did not venture into other areas.

    The dialogue comes up well in the transfer, and everything is clear and easy to understand. There did not appear to be any indication of audio sync issues in the transfer.

    The original music score comes from Miles Goodman, and a fairly mundane sort of score it is too. Nothing much to remember and certainly nothing much to rave over.

    The presence of just Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks is not surprising as there is little scope in the film for the use of any more dynamic sound. The surround encoding is nothing really great, and it merely serves to make the soundscape a little more natural sounding than plain old vanilla stereo. Since there are no scribblings in my notepad about the sound, it is obviously free from any sorts of distortions or imperfections and does the job required of it, and nothing more.

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

Extras

    Another rather lacklustre effort once again, especially considering the additional space afforded by the dual layer format.

Menu

    Another typically nice, clean, functional effort from Universal. They are not 16x9 enhanced.

Production Notes

    Another typically decent effort from Universal.

Biographies - Cast and Crew

    These again appear to be a little out-of-date, suggesting that they have probably been copied carte blanche from the Region 1 release - which was issued about the same sort of time that the most recent film listed here was released, as evidenced too by the fact that the film Bowfinger is listed as Bofinger's Big Thing. Quite detailed nonetheless, but would have been a lot better being more up-to-date.

Theatrical Trailer (1:40)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and has Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Nothing especially wonderful and somewhat blighted by some obvious moiré artefacting at times.

R4 vs R1

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

    Judging by the comments from Widescreen Review, the Region 1 release is very much identical to our own in every way. Call this one even.

Summary

    Housesitter is a reasonably entertaining film that is not an unpleasant way of spending ninety odd minutes. A pity therefore that the video transfer is a little lacking in vivacity. There is nothing to really criticise here, but I would have hoped for something a little better overall than this.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, August 11, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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