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Prior to PRETTY WOMAN ($35), I failed to see the appeal of Richard Gere. For me, this is the film that introduced the new and improved Richard Gere-the one with the gray hair. Did Richard Gere really improve? I honestly don’t know. Perhaps it was his choice of roles that had improved. In PRETTY WOMAN, Richard Gere portrays Edward Lewis, a rich and highly successful business executive who has everything… but a personal life. One night, while returning to his Beverly Hills hotel, in a borrowed sports car that he can barely drive, Edward encounters Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts). Vivian is a beautiful and sassy prostitute whom he pays to drive him back to his hotel. Feeling lonely after breaking up with his girlfriend, Edward invites Vivian to spend the night. Vivian proves to be so earthy and unlike any other woman that Edward has ever met, he hires her to be his paid escort for the week he is in town. As you might expect, the more time that Edward spends with Vivian, the more intrigued he becomes... and the feeling is definitely mutual.

The subject matter of PRETTY WOMAN is very far-fetched, but the film is a sweet and charming modern Cinderella story with a bit of Pygmalion thrown in for good measure. In the universe of PRETTY WOMAN, Edward is the prince. Vivian is the Cinderella girl whose life changes once she gets all dressed up for the ball. And filling the shoes of the Fairy Godmother is a rather unexpected choice- Hector Elizondo. Elizondo is a marvelous character actor who is so engaging as the hotel manager who helps Vivian that he walks off with his few brief scenes. Director Garry Marshall uses a very light touch, which is absolutely required to keep this romantic soufflé from collapsing. The cast of PRETTY WOMAN also includes Ralph Bellamy, Jason Alexander, Laura San Giacomo, Alex Hyde-White, Amy Yasbeck, Elinor Donahue, Frank Campanella, Hank Azaria, Larry Hankin and Larry Miller.

Touchstone Home Entertainment has made PRETTY WOMAN available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation is really quite nice for this nearly twenty-year-old film. This release represents the absolute finest that PRETTY WOMAN has ever looked in the home venue. In addition, I don’t know if Julia Roberts has been more lovingly photographed as she appears here. That said, PRETTY WOMAN will never be considered high definition demonstration material. Image sharpness and detail isn’t at the level of a new film, but there is far more here than I have ever seen on this title before. In comparison to a new film, PRETTY WOMAN comes across as soft, with the cinematography giving the impression of mild diffusion lenses being employed on interiors to enhance the romanticism… either that, or a bit of DNR has been employed in places. As for sequences shot in bright daylight, they appear more crisply resolved and display more dimensionality. Colors vary between a very realistic level of saturation and warm, rich and vibrant hues. Blacks are deep and whites are stable. Contrast is smooth. Shadow detail is rather limited, plus dark grays tend to crush down into the blacks, without any delineation. The film elements show relatively blemishes. Some grain is apparent throughout the presentation, but helps maintain an organic quality.

PRETTY WOMAN is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel uncompressed PCM soundtrack. Considering the tracks age and a sound design that began life as matrixed Dolby Surround, it should come as no surprise that this is a generally unremarkable comedy mix. As expected, the outlying channels see limited activity, with only occasional effects creating a stereo image across the front. As for the surrounds, only general ambience and musical fill seem to fall into the rear channels. Certainly, PRETTY WOMAN sounds better in this incarnation than it has previously; however, this is still a long, long way from what could be considered demonstration material. I will give the track credit, as the sonics definitely benefit in terms of fidelity, thanks to the uncompressed nature of the sound, which gives the music a boost. The bass channel coasts along, with nothing to do. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. An English Dolby Digital 5.1 channel track has also been provided, as have French and Spanish 2.0 channel tracks.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some nice extras. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with director Gary Marshall, who is always fun to listen to talk. Featurettes includes: an Original Production Featurette, Live From The Wrap Party and LA: The Pretty Woman Tour. A Blooper Reel, a Natalie Cole Music Video for Wild Woman Do and a Theatrical Trailer closes out the extras.

PRETTY WOMAN is one of the most charming romantic comedies of the last two decades, and considering the passage of time, it has earned the right to use the term minor classic. While not demo material, the Blu-ray presentation is really quite nice and paints PRETTY WOMAN in its best light ever. Definitely recommended.



Pretty Woman [Blu-ray] (1990)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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