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What do you get when you cross June Cleaver with Ted Bundy? Well, in the off center world of director John Waters, you get an off-the-wall comedy like SERIAL MOM ($25). With SERIAL MOM, the auteur of comic bad taste may have made his mainstream masterpiece, thanks to his mainstream leading lady. I seriously doubt that Kathleen Turner has ever had a more bizarre role than she plays in SERIAL MOM, and that is saying a lot for the actress who starred in Ken Russell's CRIMES OF PASSION. I also tend to doubt that anyone could have carried off the film's title role with as much conviction or gleeful derangement as Turner.

As Beverly Sutphin, Turner is the perfect embodiment of a woman who is one part Donna Reed and one part Charles Manson. Of course, everyone believes Beverly to be the perfect suburban homemaker, her home is immaculate, she loves her family, she doesn't use foul language, plus she recycles religiously. Unfortunately, living a sugarcoated life has rotted Beverly's brain to the point that even life's simplest annoyances drive her over the deep end. The first sign that Beverly isn't quiet right comes within the opening moments of the film. While her family nonchalantly enjoys breakfast, Beverly is preoccupied with stalking a common housefly, which she kills with homicidal zeal. Further evidence of Beverly's fragile mental state appears when she anonymously harasses the neighbor who stole her parking spot at the supermarket.

The final proof of Beverly's unbalanced nature comes when a teacher dares to make some unkind remarks about her son. Next thing you know, the poor man is the newest speed bump in the high school parking lot. As the body count rises, each of Beverly's indiscretions become more brutal and even more outrageously hilarious. However, since this is a John Waters' movie, things become even more twisted after "Serial Mom" is caught by the authorities and is transformed into an instant media celebrity. SERIAL MOM also stars Sam Waterston as Beverly's husband Eugene, a steadfast family man, who can't believe that his perfect wife is a perfect nut. Ricki Lake is a delight as Beverly's flirtatious daughter Misty and Matthew Lillard is great fun as Beverly's son Chip, who goes Hollywood in a big way, thanks to his mother's new found fame. The cast of SERIAL MOM also includes Scott Wesley Morgan, Walt MacPherson, Justin Whalin, Patricia Dunnock, Lonnie Horsey, Mary Jo Catlett, Patty Hearst and Mink Stole in a laugh inducing performance. Also look for Suzanne Somers, who has never been better, and Traci Lords in an amusing little cameo.

SERIAL MOM isn't HBO Home Video's best effort on DVD. Sure, the film is presented in its original 1.66:1 theatrical aspect ratio. However, the DVD isn't enhanced for 16:9 playback and the transfer would appear to be the same one used for the Laserdisc release- about five years ago. While SERIAL MOM looks very nice, the image doesn't crackle with the level of detail one normally finds in a brand new anamorphic enhanced DVD. Everything appears just a tad softer than it would in a new transfer, however the DVD still looks significantly better than a VHS tape. Color reproduction is very nice, offering good saturation, natural looking flesh tones and no evidence of chroma noise. Additionally, the black level leans towards gray, which throws off the contrast somewhat. DVD authoring is quite good and there are no signs of Digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a very undistinguished mix, which suffers from under-utilized surround channels. Channel separation across the forward soundstage is pretty good, with occasional directional effects. As for the rear channels, they supply some ambient sounds and help fill out Basil Poledouris' VERTIGO inspired musical score. Dialogue is focused in the center channel and reproduces quite cleanly, with natural sounding voices. English Dolby Surround and French language tracks have been encoded onto the DVD. Subtitles are available on the disc in English, French and Spanish.

The interactive menus by EMA Multimedia Inc. are very nicely designed and feature animation, sound and full motion video. Through the menus one can access the standard scene and language selection features as well as the disc's extras. First and foremost, there is a terrific audio commentary with director John Waters. Waters' talk is informative and highly entertaining- almost as funny as the film itself. Waters' fans will definitely want to listen to the commentary track. Other supplements include a production featurette, a theatrical trailer, television spots, brief on camera interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and cast biographies/filmographies.




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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