Monday, December 5, 2011

Soapdish DVD Review

The off-screen craziness rivals the on-screen drama in the sidesplitting comedy Soapdishwhich is now celebrating its 20th anniversary with a new DVD release.  Boasting an extraordinary cast of stars including Robert Downey Jr., Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Whoopi Goldberg, Elisabeth Shue, Teri Hatcher, Garry Marshall, Cathy Moriarty and Kathy Najimy, the hilarious comedy follows the outrageous high jinks of the cast and crew of America’s hottest soap opera, “The Sun Also Sets”.  When an ambitiousactress connives with the soap’s producer to scuttle the career of the show’s beloved star, nothing works as they planned and there’s enough dirty laundry to keep everyone in hot water.  This comedy gem continues to be a fan favorite and the DVD includes a behind-the-scenes featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

Film (4 out of 5 stars) 

Things on the set of the popular soap opera “The Sun Also Sets” are starting to get out of hand with cast jealousies, diva-like tantrums, and underhanded tactics.  Longtime star Celeste Talbert (Sally Field) is a generally unhappy actress whose personal life begins to spiral out of control when her boyfriend leaves her and her co-stars plot to remove her from the show.  The main instigator against Celeste is Montana Moorehead (Cathy Moriarity) who has enlisted the show’s producer David Seton Barnes (Robert Downey, Jr.) to her cause by promising him sexual favors if he gets rid of Celeste.  The two of them conspire different ways to eliminate Celeste without hurting the show since the network honcho Edmund Edwards (Garry Marshall) is watching the ratings very carefully.
The only supporter that Celeste has on the show is the Head Writer Rose Schwartz (Whoopi Goldberg) who cares for her and even tries cheering her up by taking her to the mall and pretending to be a fan to garner attention from fans nearby.  As a ploy to get the show’s audience to hate the character of Celeste, David and Montana create a new story-line where Celeste kills a deaf mute girl on the show.  What they don’t realize is that the young girl that was cast in the role, is Celeste’s real life niece Lori Craven (Elisabeth Shue).  Edwards likes what he sees and makes Lori a full cast member of the show over Celeste’s objections since she doesn’t think acting is a suitable career for Lori.
Since their original plan didn’t work, David and Montana bring back an actor named Jeffrey Anderson (Kevin Kline) who had been fired from the show long ago at Celeste’s insistence.  Jeffrey at this point is a bitter actor who performs for a disinterested group of senior citizens who can’t even hear the play.  When he gets the chance to return to the show and abandon the dinner show theater circuit, Jeffrey jumps at the chance and happily returns much to the chagrin of Celeste.  By all appearances, Celeste seems to despise Jeffrey even though they once had a relationship before she kicked him off the show.  Jeffrey becomes convinced that she still has feelings for him and constantly teases her about it.  What makes it even harder on Celeste is seeing Lori develop what she believes is a romantic relationship with Jeffrey which is more than she can take.
When the script from the show has Jeffrey’s character kiss Lori’s, Celeste interrupts the scene and confesses that not only is Lori her daughter not not her niece, but that she’s also Jeffrey’s daughter.  Both Jeffrey and Lori are shocked and furious that they had never been told the truth while the rest of the cast gleefully watches the show implode, convinced that these events will bring about the end of Celeste’s reign on the show. The situation gets so bad that Celeste, Jeffrey, and Lori all demand that the others be fired from the show or they would leave.  Edwards decides that a live episode will decide the fate of all of the characters which will be revealed to everyone as they read their lines from a teleprompter.  Being a live episode you can image how things will get crazy with so many different agendas that will be played out.
Soapdish is a fun movie that plays like a farce and is filled with an extremely talented cast.  Even relatively minor roles like the man-eating cast agent are played by the great Carrie Fisher.  This cast is up to the task and I really enjoyed seeing Kevin Kline’s return to comedy after his absence from the scene after A Fish Called Wanda.  He is back full of manic energy and he’s absolutely great in this as is Sally Field as the somewhat sympathetic Celeste.  It’s always fun to see Robert Downey Jr. and in this he looks impossibly young but he’s great as the weaselly David.  The supporting roles are also done well with Whoopi Goldberg as the long suffering Rose, Elisabeth Shue as the wannabe actress, Teri Hatcher as a jealous co-star, and Cathy Moriarity as the the evil mastermind who has her own secrets.

Video (4 out of 5 stars) 

For a DVD, this wide-screen enhanced for 16:9 TVs transfer looks pretty good with bright colors, and some decent detail offered. Granted, this DVD was up-converted but it looked surprisingly good and a lot better than the previous DVD release.  I do wish that they would release this movie on Blu-ray, but at least this DVD is pretty good.  Flesh tones are natural and consistent and the black levels looks acceptable so overall for a DVD I’m happy with it.

Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Soapdish’s Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is also pretty good.  This is a front heavy mix with not a lot of rear activity but it does the job.  Dialogue is clear and balanced and the music and effects are also done well.  This is the most spectacular sound mix I’ve heard but for a comedy that’s twenty years old it will suffice.

Special Features (1 out of 5 stars) 

It’s very disappointing that there aren’t any quality special features on this release.
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette - The bulk of the “extras” is a four minute look behind the scenes that’s better than nothing but I think there should have been a lot more.  Short clips of the cast talking about the movie makes up this short extra.
  • Original theatrical trailer

Final Thoughts (3 out of 5 stars) 

This is a fun crazy movie with a wonderful cast that really went all out to make this as outlandish as possible.  This is a funny spoof of soap operas (which deserve it in my opinion) and it’s great to see all of these actors in this kind of movie especially seeing Kevin Kline do the kind of comedy he is so good at but rarely does.  It’s a shame that they didn’t offer more extras but this is still highly recommended!
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