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Paramount Studios presents
Sabrina: You probably don't believe in marriage.
DVD ReviewThe 1954 version of Sabrina is regarded as a quiet classic, and one of Audrey Hepburn's better performances. Hollywood, in its wisdom, decided that it'd be a good idea to try a remake. Surprisingly enough, this innocent fairy-tale love story works almost as well in the cynical 1990s as it did in the innocent '50s. While it doesn't have the effortless charm of the original, it does hearken back to the days when romantic comedies didn't just consist of sex and neuroses.
Sabrina is played this time by the surprisingly charming Julia Ormond, doing her best to replace Hepburn and succeeding quite effectively. She's the daughter of a chauffeur working for the Larrabees, one of the richest families on Martha's Vineyard. She's been in love with the younger Larabee son, David (Kinnear), but he barely notices her, more intent on falling in and out of love with any number of rich debutantes. In Kinnear's first major role, he gives a remarkably funny performance, exhibiting excellent comic timing and an innate likeability throughout.
Sabrina moves to France to work, and it transforms her from a shy ingenue to a mature, stunning woman. But on her return, she's as smitten with David as ever. Unfortunately, he's engaged to a society woman (Lauren Holly) whose father's business is planning to merge with the Larrabee company; the billion-dollar deal is contingent on the marriage going through. David's ever wandering eyes land on Sabrina, and he's smitten. David's brother Linus, the Larrabee wheeler and dealer, knows he must stop his brother from ruining his marriage and the deal. To do so, he woos Sabrina himself, but, of course, gets his own feelings mixed up in the process.
The plot is a near-exact remake, simply updated for the times—the business deal remains, as does the old-fashioned feel of the story. The script does its best to recapture the romance of the original; to an extent, it does. Both films play like an update of the Cinderella story, except here the woman does the saving: Sabrina, in her growing relationship with Linus, opens his eyes to the possibilities of life, as he too is transformed, from an obsessive businessman to someone who tentatively begins to embrace something else. Harrison Ford gives one of his more nuanced performances, effectively layering quiet yearning and growing unease with himself under his gruff exterior. Likewise, Ormond carries off her necessary transformation effortlessly, her only physical change a new haircut, but the change in her character otherwise evident through her speech, expressions, and the way she carries herself.
Sydney Pollack does well injecting the same fairy-tale feel into his direction, capturing the magic of the Larrabee parties from the outsider Sabrina's point of view. Unfortunately, in his quest to recreate the original film for the 1990s, he is so faithful to it that things feel too leisurely at times, and the beginning segments in Paris and parts of the middle drag a bit. Even so, the performances carry it, and the end result doesn't top the original, but manages to be a pleasant old-fashioned romance nonetheless.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: This is a decent transfer, but nothing more. Colors look suitably saturated, and black level is decent. Many scenes are lacking in fine detail, giving the picture a gauzy look that is, for all I know, intentional, but there you have it. There's no obvious compression artifacting, and just a bit of aliasing on my 4:3 display. The biggest problem is the amount of wear evident on the source material. The opening credits look particularly rough, with grain and spotting rather evident. Though things improve, there are still many scenes throughout that show a lot of white speckling and marks. Sabrina looks okay on DVD, but shows a lot more print damage than I'd expect of a movie only five years old.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Another fairly basic romantic comedy mix is presented here. Dialogue is clear and anchored in the center. The score fills out the mains and occasionally extends to the surrounds, but for the most part they are given little to do. The score sounds rich and well supported, and mixes well with the dialogue, never overpowering other elements of the track.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: Extras are the usual for Paramount. That is to say, only a trailer and an inadequate number of chapter stops (though there are 17, some run over 10 minutes).
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsRemakes usually spell disaster, but Sabrina is actually pretty good. It doesn't quite capture the charm of the original, but it's fun in its own right. An old-fashioned romance to be sure, but fans of the genre will enjoy it.
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