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Dustin Hoffman does not make for an attractive woman, however as a man pretending to be a woman, he certainly makes a highly credible woman. I am sure there are men out there that would have been more attractive playing the role of Dorothy Michaels in TOOTSIE ($25), but I doubt there are many that could have made the character as real as Hoffman, who received an Oscar nomination for the effort. In TOOTSIE, Hoffman portrays actor Michael Dorsey, whose temperament and dedication to his craft has earned him a reputation of being a huge pain in the ass- so much so, that no one in Hollywood or New York will hire him. Despite his own professional problems, Michael is very supportive of his friends, especially Sandy (Teri Garr), an actress that he coaches, as well as his roommate Jeff (Bill Murray), who has written a play in which Michael and Sandy will star, if he can raise the $8,000.00 he needs to produce it.

When Sandy goes up for the role as a tough female hospital administrator on a soap opera, but doesn't get it, Michael takes in his head to dress up like a woman, thinking that he may be able to get work as someone other than himself, and that is how Dorothy Michaels is born. After a difficult audition, in which she butts head with the soap’s self-centered director, she lands the role on the soap opera. However, when Dorothy becomes an overnight sensation on the show, he is horrified to learn that her limited role is being extended to a yearlong contract. Further complicating matters for Michael is the fact that he is falling for Dorothy's co-star Julie Nichols (Jessica Lange), while Julie’s father is becoming smitten with Dorothy.

Although it was released in 1982, TOOTSIE doesn't seem at all dated. The humorous interplay between the sexes remains fresh and funny, thanks to a well-written script and group of very solid performances. As I stated above, Hoffman brings both his male and female characters to life, while successfully underplaying the comedic aspects of the story. Bill Murray's role may be brief, but he works his usual magic by brilliantly adlibbing his way through the material. Terri Garr got a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her hilarious performance as the neurotic and highly insecure Sandy. However, it was Jessica Lange took home the gold statuette as Dorothy's somewhat confused co-star. Dabney Coleman is ideally cast as the soap's egotistical, sexist director and Charles Durning is perfectly charming as Dorothy's unaware suitor. The cast of TOOTSIE also includes Sydney Pollack (who also directed), a delightfully daft George Gaynes, Geena Davis, Doris Belack and Christine Ebersole.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has made TOOTSIE available in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. A cropped presentation is also available on the flip side of the disc, but the compositions are so corrupted that this version is unwatchable. The wide screen version of TOOTSIE looks better than I expected this nearly twenty-year-old film to look. I was surprised by the clean, crisp, detailed image that is free from age related defects. Of course, TOOTSIE doesn't look like a brand new movie, but the presentation is an incredibly pleasing representation of two-decade-old film. Colors are nice and solid, with the flesh tones appearing very natural. The level of saturation isn't what one gets from a more recent film shot on improved film stocks, but the hues are quite respectable looking. Blacks appear accurate and the contrast is fairly smooth; however, shadow detail is somewhat limited by age and the film stocks in use in 1982. There are no problems related to digital compression artifacts during the presentation.

For this release, TOOTSIE has been given a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix, which rates as a thickened up version of the original monaural soundtrack. Stereo imaging is difficult to detect, even in the music, and the surround usage is pretty minimal. Still, the new mix is generally pleasant sounding, as well as being free from distortion an audible defects. Dialogue is fully intelligible, but some of the voices do sound a bit canned at times. The original monaural soundtrack is also present on the DVD, as is a French language track. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai subtitles have also been encoded onto the DVD. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as talent files and theatrical trailers for a few Columbia TriStar titles, but strangely not for TOOTSIE.

TOOTSIE is a genuinely funny and thoroughly entertaining screen comedy that has been given a very nice presentation on DVD by the folks at Columbia TriStar. Fans will find this DVD worth picking up, as should anyone even remotely interested in the film.




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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