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You’ve heard all the hype about the film. So is AS GOOD AS IT GETS ($20) really as good as it gets? Well, let me say this, AS GOOD AS IT GETS is a wonderful little character driven comedy that almost everyone is certain to enjoy. Jack Nicholson received Academy Award for his performance as Melvin Udall, an obsessive compulsive romance novelist who is nothing like the prose that spouts from his books. Only Nicholson could make this obnoxious character likable; his Oscar is richly deserved. In AS GOOD AS IT GETS, Melvin Udall is the center of his own little universe; a universe in which he treats everyone as though they were beneath contempt. Melvin’s life is greatly changed by fate, when he finds his regimented existence has become unexpectedly intertwined with that of a young waitress, as well as his gay next door neighbor and the neighbor’s dog.

Helen Hunt got to take home an Oscar for Best Actress for the role of Carol Connelly. Carol is the only waitress in Melvin’s favorite restaurant who will serve him or put up with his caustic personality. When Carol begins missing work because of her son’s chronic illness, Melvin arranges for a doctor to treat the child, so she will come back to the restaurant and wait on him. Greg Kinnear’s portrayal of Melvin’s gay neighbor Simon Bishop garnered him an Oscar nomination. Kinnear gives the most moving performance in the film, but unfortunately he was the only one who didn’t take home the bacon. When Simon is hospitalized, Melvin is forced into caring for his neighbor’s dog. At first, Melvin hates the idea of having a dog in his antiseptic environment, but the dog quickly begins to grow on him. Believe it or not, the dog actually manages to steal some scenes from Jack Nicholson. I guess director James L. Brooks used all of the dog’s best takes. Cuba Gooding Jr. makes the most of his brief role in the film, as does Shirley Knight. The cast of AS GOOD AS IT GETS also includes Skeet Ulrich, Yeardley Smith, Lupe Ontiveros, Bibi Osterwald, Brian Doyle-Murray and Harold Ramis.

Columbia TriStar Home Video has made AS GOOD AS IT GETS available in both wide screen and full frame presentations on opposite sides of the DVD. While the full frame version is okay, in a cable TV kind of way, it is far from as good as it gets. The wide screen version includes the anamorphic enhancement, plus it properly frames the film very close to its 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. AS GOOD AS IT GETS looks simply marvelous on DVD. The transfer is richly detailed, while the colors are vibrant and well saturated, with a total absence of distortion or color noise in the faithfully rendered hues. Digital compression artifacts were well disguised by an excellent encoding job.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack had a very warm and pleasing mix that provided the film with atmosphere, instead of overt directional effects. Other soundtrack options include a matrixed Dolby Surround track, plus a French language track. The DVD includes English, French and Spanish subtitles. The interactive menus offer access to the standard language and scene selection features, plus a full-length audio commentary. On the commentary are Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt, Greg Kinnear, director James L. Brooks, producer Lawrence Mark, editor Richard Marks, and composer Hans Zimmer. The commentary is quite enjoyable and is worth listening to, especially to hear Jack Nicholson talk about one of his films.

AS GOOD AS IT GETS is a true delight that film fans are going to want to own. Of course, the DVD is the best way to own it. Highly recommended.


As Good as It Gets (1997)


DVD reviews are Copyright 1998 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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