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Blu-ray Review: Roxanne

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What can be said about a movie which takes a famous love story and completely updates it for modern times, creating a new, yet utterly classic tale.  Steve Martin's 1987 classic, Roxanne, which has just been released to Blu-ray, not only makes its influences quite obvious, but manages to create a heartwarming, hysterical, story all its own.

Directed by Fred Schepisi (Mr. Baseball), the film really is Martin's, he not only stars (playing C.D. Bales), he served as executive producer on the film and wrote the screenplay.  Acting opposite Martin is Daryl Hannah in the titular role, and Rick Rossovich as Chris, the attractive lug whom C.D. has to help woo Roxanne.

This update of Cyrano de Bergerac takes place in small Colorado town amidst a lovable group of oddball locals, including Bales' best friend played by Shelley Duvall.  Roxanne finds herself in town for the summer studying astronomy as does Chris (Rossovich), a professional firefighter, helping Bales (the fire chief) put together a workable crew.

The story is a well-known and well-worn one — Chris uses Bales' words and his own looks in order to woo Roxanne to great effect.  However, by the end of the film — it is a romantic comedy after all — everything works itself out and Bales and Roxanne fall forever in love.

From the start of the film through all but the end of the final act, the film is filled with humor of the type only Steve Martin at his best can deliver.  His C.D. Bales is charming and witty and wise and terribly flawed, both with his large nose and the way his shnoz has caused him to approach the world.  It is a cross he has had to bear, an albatross around his neck which he has allowed himself to be weighed down by.  He cannot approach Roxanne for love because he believes that due to his nose no one will ever love him.  It is a pain he deals with by turning to humor and anger both, and sometimes the two together.

Bales' flaws and the way he deals with them are what cause the movie to be such great fun and so enjoyable for the vast majority of its length.  Unfortunately, the end of the piece seems terribly rushed — gone is the lackadaisical pace of the film, the only remaining desire the piece seems to have at the end is to get Roxanne and Bales together, and it happens without the wit that fills most of the film.  The movie, even 20 years later, is still brilliant and funny and well worth watching, but one gets the sense that it could have been even more.

The Blu-ray release of Roxanne feels like a terribly bare bones affair, it contains no special features at all. It is BD-Live enabled, but there seems to be no content online related directly to Roxanne, just to other Sony offerings.  Additionally, the look and sound of the Blu-ray will do nothing to wow the at-home audience.  The print is a clean one, and the audio levels well balanced, but there is nothing in either the audio or visual track to truly make the film standout.  There is no great clarity or incredible amount of detail to any of the scenes — and one or two seem noticeably more grainy than they ought to be — but it's not grossly lacking either, it's a 1980s romantic comedy which in the end would do just as well on a standard definition DVD as on a high definition Blu-ray.

In the final summation, the selling point of Roxanne on Blu-ray isn't the glitz or glamour of high definition, it's the brilliance of Steve Martin and his ability to write and act in the tale.  It is a smart, charming, entirely lovable film, and like Bales himself, the Blu-ray doesn't need to be all gussied up to make it worth having.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.