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Of Julia Roberts' romantic comedies, NOTTING HILL ($27) is one of the most charming. Certainly no PRETTY WOMAN, but very pleasant and quite enjoyable. The film also benefits from the straight-laced English comedy stylings of her leading man Hugh Grant, not to mention a wonderful supporting cast of characters who threaten to steal the movie away from the two big stars.


In NOTTING HILL, Roberts portrays Anna Scott- the most famous and instantly recognizable actress in the world. As you can see, the role isn't much of a stretch for Roberts. While making a film in England, Anna happens into a travel bookstore run by William Thacker (Grant). After a couple of humorous incidents, the mismatched twosome begins a friendship that leads to romance. Unfortunately, "happily ever after" doesn't always happen in the movies, as Anna and William's relationship hit a number of serious bumps. The delightful supporting cast of NOTTING HILL includes Rhys Ifans, Tim McInnerny, Gina McKee, Emma Chambers and Hugh Bonneville.

For their Ultimate Edition Universal Studios Home Video has made NOTTING HILL available on DVD in both full screen and 16:9 enhanced wide screen presentations on separate discs of this two-disc set. The full screen version doesn't seem cropped in any way, but without its theatrical framing, NOTTING HILL looks like a cable TV movie. Watching NOTTING HILL in wide screen is definitely a more satisfying experience, since the 2.35:1 framing is more cinematic and gives the film far more character. The wide screen image is very clean, bright and beautifully detailed. Colors are fully saturated, yet flesh tones remain completely convincing. There are no signs of chromatic distortion of bleeding, even in the strongest hues. Blacks are right on the money, plus the picture produces wonderfully smooth contrast, in addition to impressive shadow detail and depth. Digital compression artifacts hardly ever made their presence known.

NOTTING HILL features a fairly standard comedy mix, which is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 channel renderings. Sound effects are never elaborately used and the rear channels see little activity- outside of the track's music and ambient effects. However, dialogue usually sounds fairly natural and reproduced with excellent intelligibility. There is little call for the bass channel to do anything other than giving the film's music a full-bodied sound. Speaking of the music, Trevor Jones' score is quite pleasant and is reproduced with marvelous fidelity. Pop songs are equally well mixed into the soundtrack and are rendered with an engaging quality. The differences between listening to NOTTING HILL in Dolby Digital and DTS aren't great, but the higher bit rate of the latter does give the music a warmer sound and a slightly more lifelike quality to the foley effects. A French Dolby Surround track is also provided, as are English and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplements, which are spread across the two discs. A running audio commentary featuring director Roger Michell, writer Richard Curtis and producer Duncan Kenworthy has been included. The commentary can be amusing if one appreciates a wry British with, plus it contains all the production detail one has come to expect from such tracks. The commentary has also been transcribed into a subtitle channel for Americans that can't understand those speaking the Queen's English. A Spotlight On Location featurette is also included on the DVD. The fifteen minute program feature interviews with cast and crew and is somewhat better than standard PR fluff, although doesn't contain any real meat. More than ten minutes worth of deleted scenes, including an alternate ending are present on the DVD. The Seasonal Walk On Portobello Road features split screen and shows how the film’s most interesting shot was achieved. Hugh Grants Movie Tips is nothing more than a few minutes with the actor on the set. The Travel Book is an interactive map of the film's title location. NOTTING HILL also includes two music videos- Elvis Costello performs She and Shania Twain performs You've Got a Way. A photo montage that is underscored by Trevor Jones' music has also been included on the DVD, as have the U.S. and international theatrical trailers. Production notes and cast biographies/filmographies close out the supplements.

I found NOTTING HILL to be a rather enjoyable romantic comedy that produces a number of solid laughs. This Ultimate Edition release provides everything that a fan could possibly want from this feature, including an excellent wide screen presentation and good sound. Fans who didn't pick up the earlier release of NOTTING HILL will want to snap up this DVD.


Notting Hill - Ultimate Edition


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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