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20th Century Fox presents
"That's your problem, y'know, you haven't seen enough movies. All of life's riddles are answered in the movies."
DVD ReviewGrand Canyon stars Kevin Kline as Mack, a Los Angeles immigration lawyer whose car breaks down one night in a bad section of town near the Northwestern Forum. Mack's uncomfortable encounter with a gang of street toughs is interrupted by the arrival of tow-truck driver Simon (Danny Glover), whose quiet self-assurance and negotiation skills enable both men to get out of a potentially dangerous situation. The incident is the first of several life-changing events that bring the two men and their families closer together, as they try to cope in a society that seems increasingly violent and uncaring.
A fine ensemble cast has been assembled here, including Steve Martin as Mack's friend Davis, a know-it-all producer of violent action pictures who takes a bullet in the leg from a thug demanding his Rolex; Alfre Woodard as Jane, an acquaintance Mack introduces to Simon; and Mary-Louise Parker as Mack's young, confused secretary (and one-night stand) Dee. Mary McDonnell is particularly affecting as Mack's wife Claire, an empty-nest mom heartened by the discovery of an abandoned baby girl during her morning jog, and Patrick Malone as Simon's nephew Otis is a credible teenager who sees a short, gang-centered life as his only option.
Director Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screenplay with his wife Meg, and the script manages to skirt the clichés and stereotypes lurking behind every corner. It comes precariously close—an extended dream sequence in which Mack imagines himself flying over greater L.A. is more "movie magic" than metaphor—but the details seem right more often than not, and soap-opera histrionics are conspicuously absent. Grand Canyon's characters are symbols to some degree, but they're also fleshed-out human beings whose emotions seem genuine and unpredictable throughout.
Is Grand Canyon a little preachy, a little too reassuring to swallow whole? Sure. But what emerges in the final analysis is a hopeful portrait of people surviving and thriving together; it's an "uplifting" story that comes by its optimism honestly. Recommended.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: Fox presents Grand Canyon in its original 2.35:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, with a fine anamorphic transfer. The source print exhibits some dirt flecking here and there, and the film's often shallow depth-of-field makes some shots softer than one might expect. But the digital transfer is very solid, with naturalistic color and solid detail throughout. Director Kasdan frequently uses the full width of the "scope" image, making this DVD presentation a treat for those of us who have previously only seen the film in pan & scan format.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Grand Canyon is presented in English Dolby Digital 4.0, as well as English and French 2.0 Surround. The 4.0 mix is very nicely done, with a broad front soundstage, good bass and some effective monophonic rear channel effects. The 2.0 presentations are comparatively "collapsed" and centered in character, though still fairly clear. The film was theatrically released in Dolby Stereo Surround, but the 4.0 mix seems to have been drawn from the original four-channel stems, with significantly better imaging than the theatrically faithful matrixed 2.0 tracks.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Titus, The Ice Storm, Smilla's Sense of Snow, Inventing the Abbotts, Paradise Road
Layers Switch: 01h:04m:40s
Extras Review: Fox's Grand Canyon DVD features 32 picture-menu chapter stops and English and Spanish subtitles. The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer, and five trailers for companion Fox Searchlight releases Titus, The Ice Storm, Smilla's Sense of Snow, Inventing the Abbotts, and Paradise Road. All trailers are in anamorphic format with Dolby 2.0 audio, most in 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with the trailer for The Ice Storm in its native 1.85:1 format.
The only real "extra" is a brief video-mastered Featurette, shot during the production. This presentation includes brief interviews with director Lawrence Kasdan and a few cast members, with some fun footage of Kline and Martin goofing around on-set. It's clip-heavy, typical promotional stuff.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsGrand Canyon is a terrific movie about two Los Angeles families living in very different worlds, and writer/director Lawrence Kasdan manages to avoid the sentimentality with which he constantly flirts. Fox's DVD features a great transfer, though supplements are few. Recommended.
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