The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996)
Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:29)
|Year Of Production||1996|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (65:06)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Michael Lehmann|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
You may have read my bio and wondered why in the heck is one of my most eagerly awaited DVDs The Truth About Cats & Dogs. Well, apart from being a fan of Janeane Garofalo, the reason is quite simple - in my view, this is one of the best lightweight romantic comedies to come out of the 1990s. It is a film that I can return to often (although not recently since VHS tapes are basically verboten since the advent of DVD) and enjoy every time. It also helps that it does not push sex down your throat, indulge in too much bad language and generally try to be something that it is not. This is meant to be a lightweight romantic comedy and it is proud to be such.
Dr Abby Barnes (Janeane Garofalo) is the pet guru of talkback radio with her own radio show The Truth About Cats & Dogs. Naturally, she answers the many and varied questions of her listeners regarding their pets, doling out advice in all directions. She is a bit on the sarcastic side but is otherwise very intelligent, well-spoken and apparently very likeable. She also happens to be excruciatingly lacking in self-confidence and makes no bones about the lack of success in her love life (which is basically non-existent). So anyway, there she is doing her talkback radio stuff when she receives a telephone call from Brian (Ben Chaplin), a photographer with a slight problem with Hank, the dog being used in his current photo shoot. Thanks to Abby's aid, Hank is soon soothed but Brian's hormones start racing, so he decides to ask Abby out and she being the romantically inept one decides to say yes, but proceeds to describe herself as anything but what she is - 5'10", blonde, basically a model-type person. What she is describing is the girl off an advertising poster she is looking at, said girl also being her neighbour Noelle (Uma Thurman). So how is this slight matter of not being 5'10" and blonde going to be overcome, especially when Abby fails to turn up for the rendezvous and Brian comes looking for her, only to find Noelle pretending to be Abby? To complicate matters, the man of her dreams is of course now falling for Noelle...
A lightweight story obviously, but one that is nicely crafted nonetheless and with just the right amount of difference to make it stand out from the herd. With some sparklingly well-written dialogue, the film has plenty of situations on display to sit back and enjoy. Notionally a starring role for Uma Thurman, whom I confess to seeing as a massively overrated talent (no doubt for the reasons highlighted in the underlying theme of the film), she is well and truly upstaged by the infinitely more talented Janeane Garofalo. Given a chance to show what she can do, Janeane Garofalo delivers in every way. The acid wit at times that underlies the film is a delight and she just sparkles throughout as she brings to life a character coming to terms with the reality of her lack of self-confidence. It also aids the film that there seems to be some genuine chemistry with Ben Chaplin, also playing a chronically non-self confident person, which adds some serious believability to scenes such as the walk ending up with the view of the sunset. Nicely done stuff too from director Michael Lehmann and all-in-all this is a really nicely done lightweight film.
Since the purpose of watching film is for entertainment, it has to be said that The Truth About Cats & Dogs succeeds at this task admirably. Probably as a result of some great casting, a nice story is brought to life in a very nice manner and the result is a film that you can return to often for some nice, innocuous entertainment on a regular basis. You can forget the bigger-named films in the genre (You've Got Mail readily springs to mind) - I am more than happy to watch The Truth About Cats & Dogs more often. It looks like the other romantic comedy in my collection that gets seriously regular watching now has a shelf-mate.
Considering the slight disappointment expressed in the transfer of the far more recent film reviewed prior to this (Doctor Dolittle 2), you might say that I did approach this review session with a slightly heightened degree of trepidation. Preparing for the worst usually has some effect - that effect being that the transfer ends up better than expected before the trepidation kicked in, which is not to suggest that this is perfect by any means, but rather that it is a good effort for a non-blockbuster film from the mid-1990s.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.
The transfer is a very smooth looking one and the only comment I made in my notebook about the transfer was the fact that it seemed to be a little dark. Since this situation is also noted in the reviews of the Region 1 release however, this may be an inherent issue with the source material and not a transfer problem. Irrespective of the source of the issue, it is the only problem with the transfer. Overall, nicely sharp and quite well detailed, with a nice clarity to it, the transfer has a really nice look to it along the lines of those anamorphically shot films I love so much. With the slightly dark tone to it though, the transfer could perhaps have been a little better in the shadow detail department.
The colour palette is very good too, and even though there is not much opportunity for bright colours to shine in the slightly dark transfer, the whole has a nice vibrancy to it and it is completely believable. Saturation is pretty well spot on throughout the film and really there is little to complain about here that would not be fixed by the elimination of that darkness in the transfer.
There did not appear to be any MPEG artefacts in the transfer. As much as I tried to find some, I did not note any film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. About the only blemish you could note in the transfer were some really quite minor black film artefacts. They flicker here and there but nothing that anyone would really find that noticeable.
The layer change at 65:06 is nicely and non-disruptively placed in a black scene change.
There is a reasonable range of subtitles available on the DVD, with the English for the Hearing Impaired efforts being very well presented and entirely legible: very sharp and very obviously white, these are the best looking efforts I have seen for a while. They are quite accurate but with this being a heavily dialogue-based film they do tend to miss bits here and there in order to keep up with the film.
Whilst it is nice that we have an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack on the DVD, I sometimes wonder whether there are instances where less is better. If ever there is one, this is it - a heavily dialogue-driven film with almost no use at all given to the surround or bass channels.
The dialogue comes up very well in the transfer, indeed a little too well: at times: the dialogue has a distinctly ADR-type sound to it with the obvious studio recording contrasting with the outdoors location of the action. No big deal really but an example of where the digital domain can highlight flaws that have hitherto been hidden. There was no problem with audio sync in the transfer - it seemed spot-on all the time.
The original music score comes from Howard Shore, with plenty of popular music added into the mix too. Most of the song choices are apt, and when notice can be taken of the original score, it seems quite nicely done - adding to the inoffensive tone of the film very well indeed.
Another thoroughly innocuous soundtrack is on offer here. With minimal surround channel use, and certainly almost nothing out of the rear channels, the soundscape is as you would expect for a dialogue-driven film - very central, very frontal and totally acceptable. With the dialogue being so important to the film, it is good that the soundtrack does not suffer from any real congestion.
|Surround Channel Use|
Okay, so we are not talking a Hollywood blockbuster here, but surely something more than just a trailer could have been scrounged up for an extras package, especially for this under-utilised dual layer DVD?
Some minor audio enhancement of the main menu does not really lift the entire package much. Apparently the Region 1 version gets some nice animated menus...
Theatrical Trailer (2:29)
So we get just a single solitary theatrical trailer as an extra on the DVD. If this is all we are to get, couldn't it at least be a widescreen effort? Yes, we get a Full Frame trailer, which is of course not 16x9 enhanced, with some Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Nothing really special about it, apart from the fact that it perhaps does not give as much of the film away as other trailers from the era. It is a bit grainy in appearance.
Well, the Region 1 release does not fare that much better, but the Region 4 release still misses out on:
The available reviews of the Region 1 release would indicate a similar sort of audio and video transfer as the Region 4 release, so basically we are talking minor differences only.
It is great to return to one of my favourite romantic comedies after a few years and I am thankful that in general the film has been given a good transfer. The seriously under-utilised space on the DVD is however something of a disappointment and I am sure that something far, far better in the way of an extras package could have been assembled with a bit of thought. Still, The Truth About Cats & Dogs will see heavy rotation through my player henceforth and I would certainly recommend this as a fine lightweight romantic comedy to have ready in the DVD collection. But then again, I love a happy ending and would choose Janeane Garofalo over Uma Thurman any day of the week.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|