Pretty Woman [Blu-Ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (17th May 2009).
The Film

Many genre works have their own version of a bizarro or mirror universe story, where parts or all of the world is opposite or reversed with a couple of constants, usually making for some entertaining interaction or just allowing the writers to explore what-if stories. But if we think about genres having bizarro selves, horror and romantic comedy seem to be bizarro to horror, at least from a financial and subject perspective. These two are usually on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of narrative content and story, but when it comes to their production and ability to make serious amounts of money they’re roughly the same. Though romantic comedies usually get a bit more money for production than horror, they’re incredibly cheap and easy to fund and put together and bring down huge amounts of money. “Pretty Woman” (1990) helped to not only set up the genre for the 90’s, but prove how incredibly successful the romantic comedy could be with a $463 million box office gross and a $14 million budget. Building the title from a Roy Orbison song and a plot that follows the “seeming opposites fall madly in love through happenstance” guidelines, “Pretty Woman” executes the romantic comedy fairly well but is still fairly plain and just doesn’t grab me personally.

Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) is a corporate raider who is not only bursting with money, but keeps on making it as he buys different companies and tears them apart for incredible amounts of money. One night after leaving a fancy party in Beverly Hills, Edward tries to find his way back to his hotel in his lawyer’s car which he’s also having trouble driving. After trying to get directions he just so happens to pull up to Vivian (Julia Roberts) a prostitute who he hires to just drive him to his hotel as he’s having trouble with the car’s clutch. After arriving and paying her for the drive, Edward hires her for the night where the two seem to connect. Still in the middle of a business deal and needing a date for some of the encounters he hires Vivian for the full week and $3,000. He sends her shopping and gives her a sort of fairytale existence in the penthouse sweet of a beautiful hotel, but the romance that began as a business relationship continues to blossom. Of course relationship drama is on it’s way, but who knows maybe they will get together and live happily ever after (spoiler they do).

Like the gore of a horror movie, the chemistry of a romantic comedy is key to it’s survival and “Pretty Woman” has one of those genre defining interplays of chemistry between Gere and Roberts. Though I’m not a huge fan of either, they’re believable as a couple since many romantic comedy couples come to base off of this relationship. They hit the same amount of tension, romance, looks or whatever it takes to get the right interplay between the two that brings the film together from a chemistry level. It’s hard to really praise their acting nearly 15 years later since I’ve seen them do roughly these same roles so many times since it’s hard to say whether or not they were typecast later or it’s the role they’re best at playing.

From a plot perspective though the film is incredibly plain and simple, which can be a great benefit to a film, but it leaves me more disinterested than anything else. Typically such a basic plot needs a little bit of a twist, but instead it’s just a very dialogue heavy romantic comedy that takes a spin on the "Cinderella" (1950) tale with less mice, pumpkins, godmothers, and just about everything to do with "Cinderella" outside of the idea of a rich man falling for a poor woman.

Overall, I’m not a particular fan of romantic comedies in general, they need to be blended with other areas or ideas to really draw me in, but I can still sit through any given romantic comedy. Is it offensively bad? No. It’s less of a throw away movie than some other romantic comedies, yet at the same time it falls into all the same schemes and traps, that I can’t entirely blame it for, but that just leaves me on the outside with more apathy than anything else. There are some moments of good acting and clever moments, but nothing to really draw me out of my vegetative state of just taking in what’s on screen without being moved for or against the film.

Video

Presented in 1080p 24/fps with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and AVC MPEG-4 encoding, the picture shows as an example of how high-definition can be a curse on some films. The image is of fairly poor quality, super grainy and noisy, there’s not the clarity of upconversion or working to get the clearest possible transfer. Especially low light scenes have the noise that make the black appear like a multicolored noisy pattern, almost defeating the purpose of high definition.

Audio

The English PCM uncompressed 5.1 surround is mixed at 24-bit/48kHz, audio is also available in English Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as French, Portuguese, Thai and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. The PCM audio falls into about the same range of the film, it gets the job done and achieves what it’s trying to accomplish by delivering their dialogue and the titular song when need be, as well as some romantic chords for the sex scenes. The sound track itself doesn’t move particularly well or bring out the audio, but my expectations for the needs of sound in the film are lower and so it evens out a bit.
Subtitles are in English for the hearing impaired, French, Spanish Portuguese, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Malaysian and Bahasan.

Extras

Since “Pretty Woman” was originally released in 1990, I wouldn’t be surprised if a "20th Anniversary Edition" came out soon, which may or may not include more extras, but as it stands the extras are fairly standard for what you would expect, including a blooper reel, three featurettes, a music video an audio commentary, theatrical trailer and bonus trailers.

First up is the audio commentary by director Garry Marshall, who does a good job of explaining the film and talking about what’s going on, though spends the majority of time talking about the actors and the set itself. The one problem is that his cadence is fairly relaxing and so the commentary kind of puts me to sleep. Not in a disinteresting way, but because Garry Marshall has that kind of voice and persona that just reminds me of a strange combination of Billy Crystal’s Miracle Max and Peter Falk’s Grandpa character from “The Princess Bride” (1987). However if you can combat the bedtime story feeling, there’s some good bits of information.

The blooper reel runs for 2 minutes and 36 seconds, typical blooper reel fare of on set antics, but all with the feel of a VHS that has been buried in the producer’s basement for a few years and has the appropriate amount of dust and decay on it.

“Live from the Wrap Party” runs for 4 minutes and 5 seconds, Roberts, Gere, Marshall and some others from the set play “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” at the wrap party and seem to have a good time doing it, but again this featurette has the same buried in the basement VHS quality as the blooper reel.

“L.A.: The ‘Pretty Woman’ Tour” runs for 9 minutes and 11 seconds. This featurette covers the general locations in L.A. where Pretty woman was shot, including clips from the film as well as a look at the real locations outside of the film when they aren’t dressed up, narrated by director Garry Marshall. You can select all of them individually, but played all together it covers everything from Rodeo Drive to the Beverly Hills Hilton that was used as the hotel.

“1990 Production Featurette” runs for 3 minutes and 46 seconds, this featurette has the same low quality feel as “Wrap Party” and blooper reel, but with some quick interviews with the major players in the film, as well as clips from the film put together with a generic narrator’s voice to tell the plot of the movie and try and get people involved.

The “Wild Women Do” music video, performed by Natalie Cole, runs for 4 minutes and 9 seconds. Very early 90’s music video in every way you can imagine.

Finally comes the theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes and 38 seconds, and may be the lowest quality video/audioyet.

Bonus trailers on the disc are:

- “Blu-Ray: High Definition Disc” runs for 1 minute and 1 second.
- “Earth” runs for 2 minutes and 14 seconds.
- “Blindness” runs for 1 minute and 50 seconds.
- “Miracle at St. Anna” runs for 2 minutes and 34 seconds.

Overall

The Film: C Video: D Audio: B- Extras: C- Overall: C