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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
St. Elmo's Fire (1985)

"There are several quintessential moments in a man's life: losing his virginity, getting married, becoming a father, and having the right girl smile at you."
- Kirby (Emilio Estevez)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: November 28, 2001

Stars: Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Mare Winningham
Other Stars: Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy, Andie McDowell, Judd Nelson
Director: Joel Schumacher

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: R for Language, sexual content
Run Time: 01h:37m:46s
Release Date: November 20, 2001
UPC: 043396065413
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- D+B+B B

DVD Review

I feel as though I see a movie with a plot similar to St. Elmo's Fire every few months. It is difficult distinguishing between these films, since every screenwriter feels compelled to write something about a close knit group of friends battling adulthood. Some, including Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming, work well enough to overlook the predictability of a screenplay that seems as though only character names have been changed. Others tend to fail miserably because the lead characters are often so uninteresting, lacking enough charisma or depth of character to warrant the story being told. It isn't that St. Elmo's Fire is to blame for all of this, but it is a safe bet that we would not be inundated by this type of film had St. Elmo's Fire never been made.

And it is somewhere between mediocrity and poorly developed characters that St. Elmo's Fire rests. Though maybe that is to be expected considering that the picture is known more for its grouping of eight hot stars of the 1980s than its quality as a whole. Nicknamed The Brat Pack after a cover story in The New Yorker, this group of fresh faces known previously for John Hughes' films fell fast from the spotlight, leaving St. Elmo's Fire as the definitive "Brat Pack" film.

St. Elmo's Fire is the story of eight recent graduates from Georgetown University, and their struggles adjusting to life after college. There is Alec (Nelson), whose job as the assistant to a senator has him thinking of marrying his long time girlfriend Leslie (Sheedy), though Leslie isn't the only woman in Alec's life. Kevin (McCarthy), is a sarcastic, downbeat writer with fantasies of being with Leslie, who is Kevin's best friend. Jules (Moore) is the wildest of the group as her drug habit and attraction to married men are beginning to get her in trouble. Kirby (Estevez) is madly in love with an attractive older woman who is still in college played by Andie McDowell. Finally there are Wendy (Winningham), who still lives with her parents and hates the fact that she is still a virgin, and Billy (Lowe), who is married with a child and between getting arrested for drunk driving and playing the saxophone is loved by Wendy. Who ever said life wasn't complicated, huh?

It is obvious that the characters in St. Elmo's Fire have a lot of growing up to do, and here lies the film's largest problem. There is not a single likeable character in the group, which makes it hard for anyone viewing the film to establish any sort of connection with the characters. At times the self-centered behavior of these characters is laughable as the men seek money, woman, and fame, while the women wish for men, drugs, and fame. Made in the "ME" decade of the 1980s, St. Elmo's Fire is intended as a snapshot of the times, though I have great difficulty imagining that any person in real life could be as annoying as the characters in this film.

With elements that would feel at home on any daytime soap opera the script for St. Elmo's Fire is without any sort of original idea. Screenwriters Joel Schumacher and Carl Kurlander seem to have thrown in as many clichés as is humanly possible and matched them up with assorted characters. From the drug-addled beauty to the money-hungry politician, the script for St. Elmo's Fire feels as though it were dragged over every stereotype imaginable.

All of this is surprising when it is realized that the cast of St. Elmo's Fire is filled with several capable actors. Nelson, Lowe, Moore, and Sheedy are fine, though their characters are so unappealing that it is a testament to their performances that they can craft memorable performances. The best work in the film is that of Winningham, McCarthy, and Estevez as they create the more compelling characters, which is not surprising as they are the most likeable characters in the film.

This is a depressing and uninteresting movie. Think of it as a prequel to Melrose Place if you will, though with more unlikable characters.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the anamorphic transfer for St. Elmo's Fire is very good for a film that is approaching its seventeenth birthday. Colors are generally fine though some look faded (no doubt due to the age of the film), while black levels are nice with little grain. Several scenes though do contain small amounts of grain, but nothing overly problematic. Print flaws are occasionally noticeable. This is a fine looking transfer with only a few moments where the age of the film shows.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, and Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 4.0 track for St. Elmo's Fire is, as one might expect, dialogue heavy throughout with only a few moments where the mix reaches beyond the center channel. The surround speakers are used to reinforce the overly melodramatic score by David Foster, though aside from those moments the rear speakers are relatively dormant. Dialogue is clean and clear of any hiss or distortion, and the left and right speakers do a nice subtle job of recreating a nice sound field.

A Dolby 2-channel mix is provided in English, Portuguese, French, and Spanish.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portugeuse, Chinese, Korean, and Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Groundhog Day, About Last Night..., Jerry Maguire
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Joel Schumacher
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Man In Motion music video
Extras Review: Although this new DVD from Columbia Tri Star does not carry a special edition banner, it houses a nice selection of extra features. First up is a new commentary track by director Joel Schumacher. It is no secret that I find many of Schumacher's films horrible, yet I am strangely pleased by each of his commentary tracks. On this track Schumacher talks mainly about his cast and the era in which the film was made. The track never becomes too technical, and is always informative as Schumacher tells stories and reminisces about how different each of his actors were some seventeen years ago compared to today.

And what St. Elmo's Fire DVD would be complete without the music video for one hit wonder John Paar's Man in Motion.

Promotional items round out the extra features as a short 10-minute featurette from the time of the films release is offered as well as trailers for Groundhog Day, About Last Night..., and Jerry Maguire. Filmographies and production notes are also offered.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

For the low retail price, fans of St. Elmo's Fire will be pleased with this new DVD from Columbia TriStar. Though I found the film a waste of two hours of my life I will never get back, I must say that the video and audio are surprisingly good for a 17-year-old movie.


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