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I don’t want to heap the praises to highly, but LOVE ACTUALLY ($27) is a warm, witty and funny romantic comedy with genuine feeling. Writer/director Richard Curtis beautifully weaves multiple intersecting tales, involving numerous characters, into a story that goes to show that love actually is all around-- especially in London, in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Considering the huge ensemble cast number of storylines in LOVE ACTUALLY, Richard Curtis pulls a hell of a juggling act; effortlessly keeping all of the balls in the air at the same time, without ever losing the audience’s interest in a single one of them. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have all of the multiple roles played by a very engaging British and occasionally American cast.

The various story threads in LOVE ACTUALLY include: the new British Prime Minister falling for a pretty staff member. A recently widowed man dealing with the loss of his wife, while trying to connect to his ten year old step son, who has romantic problems of his own. A clueless married executive has to deal the amorous attentions of his pretty secretary, and then go home to face his loving wife. An aging, down and out rock musician, who comes to find a rather unexpected source of love in his life. A recently separated writer finds a mutual attraction with his housekeeper, even though neither of them speaks a common language. A couple of very nude movie stand-ins form a connection that is more than physical, while going through the motions on the set. The wonderful ensemble cast of LOVE ACTUALLY features Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, Martine McCutcheon, Rodrigo Santoro, Lúcia Moniz, Thomas Sangster, Billy Bob Thornton, Rowan Atkinson, Joanna Page, Martin Freeman, Ivana Milicevic, January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Claudia Schiffer, Shannon Elizabeth and Denise Richards.

Universal Studios Home Video has made LOVE ACTUALLY available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays (a separate full screen version is also available for anyone who cares). LOVE ACTUALLY looks really quite nice on DVD, with the widescreen transfer producing a sharp and really nicely defined image. Colors generally appear attractive, but with the wintry season of the film, outdoor hues can be a bit subdued in appearance. Still, the flesh tones always look pretty darn natural, as well as appealing. Blacks are accurately rendered, whites are crisp and the picture produces good shadow detail and smooth contrast. The film element used for the transfer appears virtually pristine and displays little appreciable grain. Digital compression artifacts are always nicely contained.

LOVE ACTUALLY comes with Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that has a rather standard romantic comedy type sound mix. The film is virtually always dialogue driven, which puts very little pressure on the outlying channels of the soundstage. Most of the sound effects are presented across the front; although, the rears do get a few licks in, as well as helping to augment incidental music and the film’s score. Ambient sounds are also directed through the rear channels, which also gives the track a nice sense of acoustic space. Fidelity is quite nice, with the music coming across in a full-bodied manner and the occasional sound effect always being convincing. Dialogue is crisp, fully intelligible and the voices have a nice natural timbre. The bass channel doesn’t have much to do other than enhancing the film’s musical content and keeping the other sounds grounded. French and Spanish Dolby Surround tracks are also provided, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice complement of supplements. Director Richard Curtis, plus actors Hugh Grant, Bill Nighly and Thomas Sankster are on hand for a running audio commentary track. The track has its share of amusing moments, plus it provides a good level of background detail on the production, making it something that fans should enjoy. Director Curtis is back to introduce a series of deleted scenes that provide over thirty-five minutes of rather entertaining material. The Music of Love Actually allows the director to discuss the musical choices for the film and shows clips in which they are contained. A Kelly Clarkson music video The Trouble With Love Is and some bonus trailers closes out the supplements.

As romantic comedies go, LOVE ACTUALLY is a best of breed that is certain to entertain. Universal has done a fine job with the DVD, giving it a great looking and sounding presentation, as well as some very nice extras. If romantic comedies are you thing, LOVE ACTUALLY is a must see movie. Recommended.



Love Actually (Widescreen Edition) (2003)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 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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