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20th Century Fox presents
Mr. Hart: Judy, do you realize there are people trying to kill me out there? Why would anyone want to kill me? I'm not such a bad guy.
DVD ReviewWe have Secretaries' Day for a reason. In any office setting, it is a sure bet that the secretarial staff puts up with a lot. The job is tedious, the pay is low, and the work done is usually not appreciated. So it's not too hard to imagine three secretaries snapping, kidnapping their boss, and holding him hostage, now is it?
In Nine to Five, three women accomplish everyone's fantasy - they get to attack and humiliate their boss (although not necessarily by choice). The first half of the movie is a winning office comedy, sort of like a 1980s Office Space. Judy (Fonda) is new at Consolidated, Inc. She isn't the most self-assured (or technologically capable) person in the office, and within hours she has the copier shooting paper all over the floor, earning her a reprimand from the boss, Mr. Hart (Coleman). Office manager Violet (Tomlin) and Hart's secretary Doralee (Parton, in her film debut) explain that Hart's treatment is pretty much par for the course. He has climbed to the top on the backs of his co-workers: if he isn't stealing ideas from Violet, he's trying to have an affair with Doralee. The three fantasize about offing him (in creative dream sequences), but when Violet accidentally mistakes rat poison for sugar and puts some in Hart's coffee, they may find their dreams inadvertently coming true.
I really enjoyed the first half of this film. It was funny (in a dated way), the characters were engaging, and the dialogue was well written. Halfway through, however, the film makes an abrupt turn into black comedy, and the shift isn't a smooth one, to say the least. The three leads are set up as rational, normal characters in the first half of the film, and it is a bit hard to accept all the wacky, unpredictable, and unbelievable things they do by the end. Still, even though it is highly implausible, the latter half is still funny; it's just that the film takes the easy way out, substituting outlandish situations for smart scripting.
Any deficiencies in the plot are made up for in the acting. Tomlin, Fonda, and Parton are all wonderful. They have great chemistry, and each shows her own individual strengths; Parton is delightfully innocent, Tomlin is satisfactorily bitter, and Fonda shucks her usual screen presence as she transforms from wide-eyed klutz to loveable criminal. Coleman is good as well, if a bit one-note (but doesn't he have to be?). His representation of a sexist pig is darn near perfect (I know. I live with one. An actual one, not just a representation).
The final third of the movie does tend to lag quite a bit. I believe if the running time had been shaved by about 15 minutes, much more of the comedy would work—timing is everything, you know. Still, overall Nine to Five works because it is inventive and unpredictable. Director Higgins creatively stages scenes in the bland workplace, and even if the pace slows, the film always looks good. I especially enjoyed the three dream sequences and the various cartoon effects used to envision the murder of Mr. Hart.
Though the "glass-ceiling" premise seems a bit dated, I'm sure it still applies. There is actually quite a bit of social commentary wrapped up in all the hilarity, but I was too amused to dwell on it. Plus, there's that great opening song (which earned Parton an Oscar® nomination). Why not give this one to your secretary next time Secretaries' Day rolls around?
You know, on second thought, it might just give them ideas.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: Nine to Five is over 20 years old, so don't expect too much from the video transfer. Like all lower-budget films from the 1980s, this one looks a bit washed out, grainy, and soft, but the DVD is still miles better than any previous version. Colors look good, with no oversaturation evident. Some of the softness is intentional, especially in the dream sequences, but overall, the film is a bit softer than I would have liked. Edge enhancement only pops up in one or two areas, and it is hardly noticeable. Film grain is a bit of a problem, with some areas looking very grainy, and others looking good, almost as if several prints were used to make the master. Speaking of the print, it is fairly clean, with only a few small blemishes and some speckles of dirt here and there. The most important thing is, this is the best Nine to Five has ever looked.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The film was originally produced with a mono soundtrack (present, for purists), but Fox has remixed that into a stereo mix for this release. As you can imagine, this results in a track with no use of the surrounds and just a few directional effects. Overall, though, it really just seems that the score has been remixed to fill the front channels, and the dialogue and sound effects have remained largely in the center. Not a bad mix, and it fits the film, so kudos to Fox for making the effort to provide this remix.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Norma Rae, The Truth About Cats and Dogs, Working Girl, For the Boys, Nine Months
Layers Switch: 00h: 46m:56s
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsThough it is a bit uneven and overlong, Nine to Five succeeds because of its wacky premise and winning performances from the female leads. The satire isn't as sharp as it was 20 years ago, but I'm sure it still applies more than it should. It's easy to see why this was such a huge hit when it was first released... Who doesn't want to attack their boss?
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