The Screening Room
pretty woman
Maybe old age and being mellow is setting in, because for some reason, I don’t quite hate “Pretty Woman” as I did back in the spring of 1990. My cynical movie mindset didn’t like the watered down “hooker with a heart” concept, nor did I care much for Julia Roberts. There wasn’t a moment in the entire movie that I thought of Julia Roberts as a call girl. But audiences flocked to see this movie.

“Pretty Woman” is now available on Blu-ray.

Julia Roberts bugged me before seeing this movie, and she bugged me even more when the press fawned over her. I didn’t think she was a particularly good actress. Her voice and acting style was flat and didn’t have much range. In almost every role I’d seen her in after “Pretty Woman,” she didn’t seem to be the character she was playing. She seemed to be Julia Roberts being Julia Roberts. To me, that’s not acting. Rather cold and distant, and yes, smug, she didn’t warm my heart. If she was such a great actress, what other roles (up until “Erin Brockovich”) can most people remember? 

Way back then, I took my girlfriend to see this movie because I knew she’d like it, and I would dread it. I didn’t go because I thought Roberts was a gorgeous specimen and could pass the time by looking at her on the big screen. The beady eyes, the long nose and the Chicklets smile just didn’t do it for me. I just never got what made people fall in love with her. To each his or her own, I guess.

Here it is almost 20 years after the movie hit the big screen. When it was announced that it would be on Blu-ray, I took a chance to review it with an open mind. After all, the film was a huge hit and has probably developed a fan base years after its release. I re-watched the movie on Blu-ray not expecting much again. Let bygones be bygones, I told myself.

Surprisingly, other than the dated soundtrack with songs that have played on Muzak for years, and seeing giant cell phones held by Richard Gere, the film isn’t as bad as I thought. Am I a convert to the Julia Roberts Fan Club? Not at all, but I can give credit where it’s due.

Director Garry Marshall, who gave me years of adolescent memories sitting in front of the TV with “Happy Days” and “Laverne & Shirley,” guides this film with a steady hand. Out of all the films I’ve seen from Marshall, this is perhaps his most solid. He foregoes his penchant for sappy scenes (“Beaches” anyone?) for letting the film and actors breathe. In later movies, Marshall pours on the sugary sweetness and predictability (think any of the “Princess Diaries” movies) with annoying and phony characters. I’ve seen Marshall a couple times at special screenings and the guy is hilarious to listen to. He sounds like that fun uncle who comes to dinner once a year and you can’t wait to hear his stories. So I almost feel bad trashing some of his movies. In “Pretty Woman,” Marshall resists the urge for sweet overkill.

The acting is very good and done with conviction. I’ll now tip my hat to Roberts. Almost two decades have passed and Roberts isn’t as annoying as I once thought. She’s actually pretty good in this role, showing us a softer side to her normally smug exterior. Gere essentially plays himself. I know he’s regarded as an excellent actor, but his range has seemed a bit short. He makes for a credible Don Juan in this fairy tale romance. Hector Elizondo, a true sport in Garry Marshall’s movies, is also good.

The film looks better on Blu-ray than it did in theaters. This wasn’t a fancy looking production, even though it’s a modern fairy tale. The Blu-ray picture is solid and looks like film. The imagery isn’t anything flashy and reflects the film’s simple style. I’ve never seen this movie look this good. This shows how Blu-ray can strengthen even the simplest looking movies.

The soundtrack, much to Disney’s credit, is available in uncompressed PCM audio. Disney is one of the few studios to continue supplying this much superior audio format. I’m not sure why, with all the high definition video and audio capability that Blu-ray offers, why most studios, and occasionally Disney, don’t include uncompressed PCM audio. Perhaps it’s a licensing and a partnership issue with Dolby Labs and DTS to include their proprietary formats on Blu-ray. All I know is that PCM still sounds better, has a better soundstage, and “breathes.” To my ears, the new high definition audio codecs still sound a bit congested. That’s not to say that Dolby TrueHD and DTS-MA sound poor. In fact, they sound very good. It’s to say that PCM should still be an option on Blu-ray and it should be used.

The soundtrack on this film isn’t, and never has been, anything overwhelming. It was, as I recall, a simple four-track Dolby Stereo mix. Don’t blame Blu-ray for such a soft sound presentation, or “dated” fidelity. This is the way the film was mixed and it’s not that bad. On the Blu-ray PCM audio track, the music sounds good and perfectly fine for this movie. Dialogue is nice and clear.

Older and wiser, I’m willing to give “Pretty Woman” a pass. Like
Hollywood Blvd. in the movie, the movie has been cleaned up and is now more tolerable these days.

Bill Kallay

Special thanks to Click Communications

Photos: © BVHE. All rights reserved.
Blu-ray Quick Glimpse



The 1990 hit is now on Blu-ray and lookin' dandy

Director: Garry Marshall  

Cast: Richard Gere, Julia Roberts, Jason Alexander, Hector Elizondo 

Bloopers, vintage footage and more


Picture: Excellent
Sound: Excellent

The cell phones were HUGE in 1990!

Aspect Ratio (1.85:1)

5.1 PCM Uncompressed Audio 

February 10, 2009
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