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For those who truly love the movies, inserting a DVD into the player should a pleasurable experience. However, there is something that occasionally appears on one’s display that is guaranteed to turn that joyous experience into one of out and out horror. The horror of which I speak usually appears in the form of a black screen that contains the following message: "This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen." The terror hit home when I popped a copy of MOONSTRUCK ($25) into my DVD player and I was assaulted by that nausea inducing message. Personally, I feel that releasing MOONSTRUCK on DVD in a substandard (i.e. cropped) presentation is disrespectful to this great movie. For the longest time, I have been hesitant to review MOONSTRUCK, simply because I had a hard time watching a bad presentation of a great movie. However, my love for the film finally forced me to knuckle down and get this review out to the masses. Hopefully, a negative review of this inadequate presentation will help to get MOONSTRUCK a proper re-release on DVD.

In my humble opinion, MOONSTRUCK is one of the best films of the 1980's. Hey, let us not forget the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and it took home an Oscar for its humorous screenplay. Since the Motion Picture Academy rightfully recognized MOONSTRUCK as an outstanding film, isn’t it perplexing that only a cropped edition of the film was issued on DVD? It’s even more perplexing when you consider that so many lesser films offer both anamorphic enhanced wide screen and cropped editions of the movie on the same DVD. Sorry, but I’m getting sidetracked… Even without the awards, MOONSTRUCK is a joyous, life affirming film about the power of love.

Set inside an Italian household in Brooklyn Heights, MOONSTRUCK stars Cher as Loretta Castorini, a 37-year-old widow who is looking to get re-married. To reach her goal, Loretta forgoes love and accepts a marriage proposal from Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello); a man she thinks will make a good provider and a good companion. Right after he propose to Loretta, Johnny has to fly to Sicily to see his mother one final time before the elderly woman dies. While he is gone, Johnny asks Loretta to invite his estranged younger brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage) to the wedding. Loretta goes to Ronny to fulfill Johnny’s request, however the wedding invitation infuriates Ronny. It seems that several years ago, Ronny had an accident for which he blames Johnny. The accident cost Ronny part of his hand, as well as the hand of the woman he was about to marry. Loretta tells Ronny that the accident was his own fault because he is like a wild animal that would chew off his own paw (hand) to avoid being caught in a trap. The trap being marriage to the wrong woman. Of course, this only serves to infuriate Ronny even further. In his worked up state, Ronny grabs hold of Loretta and kisses her. It is in this instant that Loretta finds all the passion missing from her life and kisses Ronny back. Of course, this complicates matters for Loretta who is still wants to go through with her marriage to Johnny.

The plot of MOONSTRUCK sounds melodramatic because Italians are very melodramatic people. However, much of the film’s warm, good humor is generated by the character’s melodramatic reactions to their circumstances. Behind the melodrama, MOONSTRUCK paints a vivid portrait of Italian family life, as well as the importance of family. While writer Patrick Shanley’s screenplay vividly draws each of the film’s characters, it is the actor’s brilliant performances that truly make MOONSTRUCK soar. Cher is absolutely delightful as Loretta. Cher truly deserved her Best Actress Oscar for bringing to life a woman who rediscovers love and passion when she least expects it.

Olympia Dukakis also took home a well-deserved Academy Award, for her wonderfully rich portrayal of Loretta’s mother Rose. Not only does Dukakis get some of the film’s best lines; she also gets most of the biggest laughs for her dead on delivery. Nicolas Cage delivers the film’s most melodramatic performance, but he does bring to life the passion that is truly Italian. Danny Aiello is utterly perfect as the mama’s boy who proposes to Loretta and Vincent Gardenia is wonderful as Loretta philandering father. Special praise has to go to Feodor Chaliapin Jr. for his memorable and very amusing performance as Loretta’s elderly grandfather. The cast of MOONSTRUCK also includes Julie Bovasso, John Mahoney, Louis Guss and Anita Gillette.

Watching MGM Home Entertainment’s cropped presentation of MOONSTRUCK is like watching the film on cable, with only slightly better picture quality. Now what is the point of owing a DVD player, if all one gets is a cable television presentation. As it is, MOONSTRUCK has absolutely no compositional balance, which makes the image just lay there. The picture looks reasonably sharp, but the cropped transfer itself looks a little dated. Shadow detail is limited and contrast appears kind of flat in places. Color reproduction is pretty good, but there is still room for improvement. In the light of recent transfers, I am convinced that a new anamorphic enhanced transfer of MOONSTRUCK would make the film look infinitely superior to the current cropped presentation. Also, an enhanced transfer would make MOONSTRUCK a perfect fit to all the new wide screen digital televisions. Getting back to the current DVD edition, digital compression artifacts are not a problem on this disc.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack is quite nice, offering some nice directional effects and clean sounding dialogue. Music is very well integrated into the soundtrack with the opera sequence being a highlight. A French language track has also been encoded into the DVD, along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus are very nicely designed, plus they feature animation, music and full motion video. Through the menus one can access the standard scene and language selection features, as well as a theatrical trailer and an audio commentary. The commentary track features Cher, director Norman Jewison and writer Patrick Shanley. Fans will love the talk, since it is filled with many choice tidbits. However, this deluxe feature on a cropped DVD me scratching my head and wondering if MOONSTRUCK was going to be a much better DVD than MGM actually released.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 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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