We gave it a B+
by David Hochman
The new DVD for The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999, Paramount, 138 minutes, R, $29.99) is a little like one of those overpriced gondolas on the Venice canals. It looks great on the outside, but once the thing gets going, you start feeling a bit ripped off.
Like the film — a thriller about a group of rich and gorgeous young Americans in 1950s Italy — the DVD seems to be a lavish production with no expense spared. There are exclusive cast and crew interviews with stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, and Matt Damon, an ”inside the movie” featurette, a ”making of the soundtrack” bonus, music videos, trailers, and a voice-over commentary from Academy Award winning director Anthony Minghella (”The English Patient”). Molto bella, right?
Actually, it’s more like mama mia! What we get are extras as canned as last week’s stewed tomatoes. That ”inside” featurette amounts to little more than footage from the electronic press kit used to promote the movie. And those ”exclusive” interviews turn out to be fluffy talking head comments apparently shot at the ”Ripley” press junket. ”I think Matt’s an amazing actor,” Minghella confesses. Paltrow’s ”An original! An absolute original!” executive producer Sydney Pollack shockingly admits. The actors are no more forthcoming. Here’s Damon’s scintillating take on filming in Italy: ”We pretty much went all over the place, and that was interesting — to see the differences way down in the south versus way up in the north.” Paltrow doesn’t exactly come off as a Rhodes Scholar, either. ”There’s so many layers to everything,” she says, ”and I think it’s a very interesting way to tell a story.”
The trouble’s obviously not the fault of the talent — these are some of the smarter people in entertainment. Surely, Minghella and company would have mustered some less predictable responses had the makers of the DVD put some thought into the production. After all, ”Ripley”’s a really intelligent movie with lots of nuances that could’ve been explored here. Instead, we’re left with only hints about what really happened on set. At one point, the director admits, ”The 90 days of being in Italy shooting this movie were as chaotic and barely survived a period of my life as I can remember.” But there’s no follow-up, no clarification. Just a brief explanation about how hard it was to re-create 1958 Italy would have made the DVD illuminating.
Even Minghella’s voice-over tends to focus more on the development of characters than on any struggles he had writing and directing the film. The most inspired moments come when he gets personal, such as when he points out his father in a bocce ball scene he shot. But that feels like too little too late, and after awhile, it’s tempting to click on the French subtitles (the DVD producers didn’t think to include Italian — go figure) and just watch all those pretty faces on screen.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: C
Here is EW Online’s guide to other notable new DVD releases.
The Kentucky Fried Movie: Special Edition
(1977, Anchor Bay, 86 mins., R, $24.98)
This first film from the David Zucker-Jim Abrahams-Jerry Zucker team — the same fellas who would go on to inflict ”Airplane!,” ”Top Secret!,” and ”The Naked Gun” on giggle-hungry audiences — is interesting in a ”so this is where it all began” kind of way. ”Kentucky” isn’t quite as rapid-fire hilarious as ”Airplane!,” and that’s probably attributable to director John Landis; he can be very funny when he’s working in an old-Hollywood style (”National Lampoon’s Animal House”), but he floundered with this newly aggressive comic experiment.
This special-edition disc, though, is anything but a flop. Both the full- and wide-screen versions will put the mossy videotapes you’ve been renting for years to shame, and the bonus goodies are appropriately fried: a commentary by Landis, the ZAZ boys, and producer Robert K. Weiss; behind-the-scenes 8MM movies shot on the set by the Zucker brothers to send home as proof they were working in Hollywood; and a series of behind-the-scenes stills (some of which feature a pair of infants in the most outlandish situations). Even if the film itself is a bit spotty, this DVD is spot-on.
Grade: B+ — Marc Bernardin
… And God Created Woman
(1956, Criterion, 92 mins., unrated, $25.95)
Brigitte Bardot va-va-va-vooms her way through this French romp, her international breakthrough. SPECIAL FEATURES Theatrical trailer, anamorphic wide-screen, subtitles, Dolby Digital mono
Desperately Seeking Susan
(1985, MGM, 144 mins., PG-13, $19.95)
”Get into the groove, boy, you’ve got to prove your love to me…” or so sings Madonna on the soundtrack to this comedy about love lost and found in the personal ads. SPECIAL FEATURES Commentary by producers Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sanford, alternate ending, theatrical trailer, full-screen and anamorphic wide-screen versions, Dolby Digital mono
Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo
(1999, Touchstone, 88 mins., R, $32.99)
Former ”Saturday Night Live” star Rob Schneider plays a fish tank cleaner who finds new life as the titular man-whore in this raunchy lowbrow comedy.
SPECIAL FEATURES Scene access, theatrical trailer, story boards, interactive menus, featurette
The Guns of Navarone: Special Edition
(1961, Columbia TriStar, 157 mins., unrated, $24.98)
It’s Mission: Really Dangerous for Allied saboteurs Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Anthony Quinn in this Oscar-nominated WWII thriller. SPECIAL FEATURES Commentary by director J. Lee Thompson, documentary, theatrical trailers, production notes, Dolby Digital 5.1, anamorphic wide-screen
(2000, Columbia TriStar, 95 mins., PG-13, $24.95)
Chic sisters Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton, and Lisa Kudrow share laughs and tears over their cell phones, but finally come together for sick dad Walter Matthau in this dramedy penned by the Ephron sisters.
SPECIAL FEATURES Outtakes, scene access, deleted scenes, theatrical trailer, film score-only audio track, production notes, cast/crew bios, documentaries, interactive menus
(1999, USA, 161 mins., R, $24.95)
Mike Leigh (”Secrets & Lies”) directs the critically acclaimed story of the volatile relationship between theatrical masters Gilbert and Sullivan.
SPECIAL FEATURES Photo gallery, production notes, TV spots, scene access, cast/crew bios, interactive menus, featurette, filmographies