I always hated Moonstruck… but don’t get me wrong, this is a positive review. See, it seemed like, back in my childhood, every time I wanted HBO or Showtime to play The Goonies, they were always in the middle of yet another airing of this Academy Award-winning romance. It was a boring movie about love with that lady Cher, who needed to stick to the radio, and stay off my movie screens. My, how a little age and maturity can alter perceptions. As a seven-year old boy, I just didn’t have the sensibility fo… this film. And while many would argue I haven’t grown up much in the years following, I gauge all such detractors wrong by the simple fact I now enjoy Cher’s shining moment thoroughly. I mean, there has to be some growth there. Right?
Moonstruck is a modern film, which uses the model of classical Italian comedies as its primary structure. In fact, some elements are directly lifted from the divine comedies of yore, but Norman Jewison’s direction, along with a top-notch script, and a terrific cast, lend a freshness not seen in the romantic by-products of today, which make the film more homage than rip-off. For one, the story centers on a 37-year old widow (Cher) – not your common leading lady role – whose superstitions dictate her happiness. She agrees to marry an older man, whom she admittedly doesn’t love, just to bring some structure and stability to her life. Then, she meets her fiance’s estranged younger brother, and a spark ignites that turns her world upside down… in a good way. The eccentricities of her Italian-American family are mined to perfection with both warmth and humor. The film explores how cruel the closest people can be to one another without wrapping viewers up in any negativity. I can finally see what the critics were raving about – a good, solid film.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer provides a sharp picture with no hint of the film’s twenty years on the negative. Deep blacks, giving way to excellent contrast, seem to draw a fair amount of richness out of the rendering. The colors are rich, but I’ll stop short of using “sparkling” as an adjective. However, this should be taken as a quality, as the world of Moonstruck is as worn and faded as its inhabitants – an admirable job Sony has done in bringing this modern classic to digital.
The 5.1 track was a nagging disappointment. There is no sense of balance throughout. The dialogue levels are extremely low, while the music and street noise actually registers on the Richter scale. Fine, if we’re talking about a Sasha Mitchell martial arts film, but this is Moonstruck for cryin’ out loud. If Sony ever wishes to improve upon this release, the soundtrack is where they should start. With that said, the musical numbers are nice, and add oodles of charm to an already charming film.
The audio commentary features Cher, Jewison, and writer John Patrick Shanley. Another track with the surviving members of a stellar supporting cast would have been nice, but we at least get the one. Along with Moonstruck: At the Heart of an Italian Family, it pretty much sums up all that needs to be said. Still, the Music of Moonstruck featurette does offer some fascinating glimpses on how something so subtle – such as a musical theme for each character – can have such a profound impact on a film’s performance – and overall quality. Rounding out this deluxe edition are Pasta to Pastries: The Art of Fine Italian Food – Interactive Map of Little Italy and collectible recipe cards.
It isn’t perfect, but it is the best release yet of a delightful American comedy that stays comfortably away from the conventions of genre. The picture looks excellent; the audio needs work. But along with a nice array of extras, the film’s quality overcomes any reason not to own.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary Featuring Cher, Director Norman Jewison and Writer John Patrick Shanley
- “Moonstruck: At the Heart of an Italian Family”
- “Music of Moonstruck” Featurette
- “Pasta to Pastries: The Art of Fine Italian Food” – Interactive Map of Little Italy
- Collectible Italian Recipe Cards