Disney’s release of these disjointed 90′s comedies is filled with meh.
Movies take us to far-away places, providing us with the ultimate escapism, whether we journey to a galaxy far far away, fight for the future of Mordor, or cheer as our superheroes save the day. Movies can also provide us with a snapshot of the times in which they’re made: there’s so much to admire and at the same time denounce in films like Citizen Kane or Casablanca that it almost takes away your appreciation of that time. I get the same feeling by watching comedy films from the pre-911 era, which sometimes seem almost like visiting an alternate reality. Few of them hold up under the pressure of today’s grittier themes and social angst. Such is the case with the 20th Anniversary release of this series: Disney’s effort is ho-hum to say the least, mired in a mass of poor transfers and lackluster supplements, leaving one to wonder why they such an effort was made in the first place.
Father of the Bride tells the story of George Banks (Steve Martin, LA Story), whose daughter Annie (Kimberly Williams-Paisley, We Are Marshall) is becomes engaged after a trip overseas. Annie is George’s little girl, and anyone who wants her hand in marriage is going to have to get through his understandably tough exterior. While the premise is similar to the original starring Spencer Tracy, the story soon turns south, as George must deal with his son-in-law-to-be (George Newbern, Justice League Animated), whose really nothing here but fancy window dressing. The few scenes between he and Martin are dull and the chemistry simply isn’t there. More importantly, Martin looks…well…old. The charm and funniness he displayed in LA Story is missing here, replaced with an uncomfortable silliness that just isn’t funny. Forget about today’s over the top raunch-fests, Martin is just dull here, as is his wife Nina (Diane Keaton, Baby Boom). They sort of plod around, making wedding plans and generally overreacting to supposedly funny set pieces, such as the performance of the wedding planner Franck Eggelhoffer (Martin Short, Three Amigos). Short outshines Martin in every scene, making you wonder if a movie about Eggelhoffer’s exploits would have been more effective. Contrary to popular belief, I do like romantic comedies, but Bride just didn’t work for me – for all the talent Martin assembled, the effect is wasted, and we’re left wondering if it could have used an injection of the original, mixed with 90′s All-Stars Pretty Woman and Frankie and Johnny.
Father of the Bride II reminds us why some film franchises should stick to only one film. Set a few years after Part 1, George must accept that his daughter is soon to be a parent herself, while the pregnancy bug also hits he and wife Nina. As we move towards a double-birth, George struggles to maintain his identity and that of his family. There is the requisite running back and forth for George between both births, the comedic hijinks which are supposed to encourage laughter but ultimately fall flat, and the appearance of Franck who again steals every scene he’s in. All of the cast returned for this sequel based on the movie Father’s Little Dividend, but watching this makes you realize how much of a cash grab this was envisioned by the studio. The script by Charles Shyer doesn’t flow, leaving funny moments out to dry while telling a semi-serious story about midlife crises, dual births, and an assortment of unnecessary plot lines which only drag the entire effort down. At 106 minutes, guys will be getting up often for something to drink, while their dates will probably enjoy the film for all the childbirth memories it will no doubt unearth. Hold steady, gentlemen: this ride might get a little rough!
While both films are presented in MPEG-4/AVC, neither stands out for the effort. While clarity is good, there is an obsessive graniness about the films that looks like the studio simply upgraded the DVD releases to 1080p, rather than taking their cues from the master prints. The main culprit here is color: blacks and shadows are squeezed together, offering little depth in George’s tuxedo or in night scenes. But the most serious of these violations comes in skin tones, which are too warm and give the impression that our actors were sunbathing between scenes. In some extreme cases, our characters look almost sickly: Culkin’s facial features haven’t changed with time, but the transfer makes him look as if the studio was underfeeding him during filming. There’s also a persistent issue of softness in some of the memory scenes with Annie, which might have seemed poignant at the time they were shot but fail to deliver here. I take exception to some reviewers who suggest that squeezing two films into a single 50GB is acceptable. Such decisions start an avalanche effect, pushing aside the chance for a clean transfer, extra features, deleted scenes, interactive menus, etc. I’m sure our experiences with these releases would have been different had Disney built them from the master prints rather than the DVD counterparts: their decision to do otherwise and to squeeze both into a single disc will forever perplex me, robbing us of a truly rewarding experience.
Neither of the Father of the Bride films is going to wow anyone in the audio department, but that doesn’t mean Disney skirted its responsibilities either. Both movies deliver a crisp DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that’s easy on the ears, while providing good surround sounds such as party chatter and factory machine noise. And while these lossless tracks aren’t going to test your LFE, they do provide the umph when needed, such as the roar of George’s sportscar and the thuds and smashes associated with Martin’s physical comedy. Dialogue is the main thing here and both it and surround track do well enough. These are serviceable efforts that get the job done.
Yikes. The avalanche I spoke of in the video notes becomes painfully apparent in the supplements, which are fair in Father of the Bride and non-existent in Father of the Bride II. My limited amount of research into whether any special features appeared on the DVD release of II is ongoing, but I suspect there were none to begin with. For a 20th anniversary release, you would have thought Disney could have taken greater care by delivering more than the following:
This meh release is a great example of the pocked road that still exists when it comes to bringing library films into the hi-def world. While this might remind some born or married in the 90′s of fond memories, it’s the lackluster video transfer, coupled with the smallest amount of supplements in recent memory, which prevent me from recommending a purchase. If you have the DVD releases, wait to purchase the Blu-ray until something better comes along. It may be awhile, but your money is better spent elsewhere.