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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Satire > Politics > Romance > Beaches (1988/Touchstone/Disney Blu-ray)/The Campaign (2012/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002/HBO Blu-ray w/DVD)/Sweet Home Alabama (2002/Touchstone/Disney Blu-ray)

Beaches (1988/Touchstone/Disney Blu-ray)/The Campaign (2012/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002/HBO Blu-ray w/DVD)/Sweet Home Alabama (2002/Touchstone/Disney Blu-ray)


Picture: B-/B- & C/B- & C+ & C-/B-     Sound: B-/B & B-/B- & C+/B-     Extras: C     Films: C



I have not been as big a fan of comedy films since political correctness and a mall movie mentality started to seep into them in the 1980s.  They have actually been an excuse to do romance, melodrama and unfunny, dumb, boring, predictable things in a film that otherwise wants to pass itself off as comical.  That is how I feel about the following releases, which all happened to have been box office hits, usually surprise hits at that.



Gary Marshall’s Beaches (1988) has Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey as old friends (Midler as a (surprise) performer, Hershey as a rich gal) who met a long time ago and stayed in touch, even if they did not see much of each other.  Eventually, performer CC is still in dire straights when her old friend gets together with her to help, but things are about to take a few turns for the worst starting with them being involved with the same man.


Form there, this just gets sappier and sappier until it becomes implausible and in the end, I never bought it, but enough people did and it was a big hit complete with Midler’s endlessly played hit “Wind Beneath My Wings” (more overplayed than For Your Eyes Only, a song and film Midler enjoyed bashing years before) which is actually a song cut by several singers before her with less success.  Marshall is just a master of playing the audiences’ emotions and I doubt in fairness few directors could have made this into a hit as he did, yet I do not think the film has aged well and except as a curio or nostalgia was never that good.  Now you can see for yourself.


Extras include Bloopers, an AFI 100 Years… clip on that song, Midler singing that song on The Grammys, Hershey’s Screen Test, feature length audio commentary by Marshall and Mayim (Big Bang Theory) Bialik Remembers Beaches featurette, as her presence has added a new curio aspect to the film.



On the less sentimental side, Jay Roach’s The Campaign (2012) was a surprise hit in a year with too much free politics all over the media, but even this dumbed-down goof-fest managed to do business with Will Ferrell as a phony career politician taking on a pushover puppet (Zach Galifianakis) when he turns out to me more formal than he expected, turning on him when he finds out how his hometown is in jeopardy and he is being used.


There are some laughs here, but even in this longer cut, not enough to justify a full-length film, so see it once uncut at best to get all the laughs out of it.  However, I give it points for going after the infamous Koch Brothers in the great casting of Dan Ackroyd and John Lithgow perfect as surrogate versions of the real thing.  It may also serve as some kind of incidental time capsule to whatever the final 2012 political year turns out to be.  I also enjoyed Brain Cox among the good supporting cast, but beware that this is very politically incorrect and seems to get desperate in the end.


Extras include Ultraviolet Copy, a Gag Reel, Line-O-Rama section and Deleted Scenes.



Not all stereotyping is directly crude as some semi-ethnic comedies show.  Like Moonstruck before it, Joel Zwick’s My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) does for Greek archetypes-as-stereotypes what the earlier film did for Italians.  Not that that is a good thing, but it is at least somewhat regressive, but both were hits and for a while, it looked like new star Nia Vardalos (who repeated this as a TV show and second feature film with much less commercial success) might become a big star.


She is an emotionally oppressed young Greek-American gal who has a father (Michael Constantine of the TV classic Room 222) who has been trying to get her married since far before she could do that legally, a family that can be supportive, but is also dysfunctional and just wants to have some space to make her own decisions.  Enter a guy (John Corbett) she might be interested in and might be compatible with.


From there, it becomes an amusing romance at times and to its advantage, shows some sides of Greek like we do not see often (versus Moonstruck, where Italian characters (real and unreal) are all over filmmaking and TV, et al), the couple has some on screen chemistry and Constantine steals every scene he is in making this more watchable than it would be otherwise.


On its 10th anniversary, it is not as dated as it might otherwise be, but I always thought it was overrated (guess I am not its intended audience) and that makes it another curio overall.  One-time boy band guy Joey Fatone is here being annoying, which is no stretch for him either.  Lainie Kazan and Andrea Martin are good, though.


Extras include Deleted Scenes, A Look Back… featurette and original 2002 feature length audio commentary by Vardalos, Corbett and Zwick.



Finally we have Andy Tennant’s Sweet Home Alabama (2002) named after the now-positively-annoying Lynyrd Skynyrd hit from 1974, “rehabilitated” here as the harmless oldie now connected to this goofy tale of a wife (Reese Witherspoon) who runs away from the home of the title to have success in New York City as a classy gal and fashion designer in high society.  Of course, her past is about to haunt her as the husband is coming back and laughs supposedly will ensue.


Sounding like a semi-take-off of the much funnier Bette Midler comedy Big Business on some level, this predictable light-weight romp was a hit but was never that good wither (Tennant is a TV director and his features even feel like simple TV) so it is the star power of Witherspoon that helped sell this, but seeing it again now, Candice Bergen really helped here and Patrick Dempsey having had a big hit TV series since makes this a curio on its own 10th Anniversary.


Extras include SHEDaisy Music Video for their song “Mine All Mine” from the film (see them elsewhere on this site), an Alternate Ending that does not make much of a difference, Tennant introducing 8 Deleted Scenes and a feature length audio commentary by Tennant.



The 1080p 1.85 X 1 (on Beaches and Campaign), 1.78 X 1 (on Greek) and 2.35 X 1 (Alabama) digital High Definition image transfers on all four Blu-rays have some good shots, but the older films have their share of dated shots ands Campaign has detail limits and motion blur from being an HD shoot.  They also all have their moments of grain (or noise in the case of Campaign) that goes along with their flatly shot cinematography meant to too often emulate an upscale TV sitcom approach.  Still, I cannot imagine any of them looking much better with the older films have pretty consistent color and only some serious money spent to upgrade them could make them that much better visually.  Campaign and Greek also come with lesser anamorphically enhanced DVD versions that are softer and Greek just recycles a very old DVD version of itself.  So bad in fact that it also features a horrid 1.33 X 1 pan & scan version of the film that should have been buried years ago.



All four Blu-rays have DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes and all were digital 5.1 sound releases theatrically to begin with save Beaches, which debuted at its best in theaters with a 4.1, 6-track Dolby magnetic sound mix.  All are dialogue and joke-based, so we did not expect great sonics, but I give credit to Campaign for offering a surprisingly warm and consistent soundfield throughout.  The DVD versions of Campaign and Greek feature lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes that are not as good as the DTS on their Blu-ray counterparts and make both films seem weaker as a result.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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