Steve Martin plays a wacky TV weatherman, who develops a close friendship with an electronic freeway sign in the sleeper hit comedy L.A. Story. I found the critically acclaimed film to lack hilarity, but it does get marks for inventiveness. Martin is enjoyable in most anything he’s in, even if the material is not-so-great. L.A. Story is one such example of an actor rising above said material. Most of the over-the-top silliness misses the mark, and Marilu Henner has little more to do than play the cliche…of snobbish socialite. The true love of the Martin character’s life – played by Victoria Tennant – is so bland vanilla I would have much rather seen him end up with his free-spirited squeeze toy (Sarah Jessica Parker), though any such relationship would be doomed to fail. At least there would be some excitement.
With that said, I did enjoy the basic hook: Martin’s interaction with the fun-loving freeway sign. The sign is just a series of bulbs lit to form questions, comments, and riddles, but there is a quirkiness to it that shows more character than any other supporting player in the film, save for Parker. Director Mick Jackson manages to make the most of this bizarre relationship, but he works from a script that lacks too many interesting additional characters to be a great film. Also, the happy ending feels tacked-on and abrupt, and if you’re of my opinion, lacks the happiness part so desperately needed. Sure, things work out. It’s a comedy. But at the end of the day, Martin’s victory doesn’t seem worth winning.
This transfer is clean and crisp with virtually no weaknesses. Colors are as bright as the film’s whimsical spirit. Most, if not all, the grain has been removed, and we are left with a sparkling transfer worthy of the 15th anniversary milestone Lions Gate so proudly stretches across the package. The film is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and offers some nice blacks, used sparingly. And this sparseness is entirely film-related, as despite all its weaknesses, L.A. Story is one of the most optimistic pictures I’ve ever seen.
Lions Gate provides both 5.1 and 2.0 English tracks. While 5.1 is almost certainly the way to go, the 2.0 track has the advantage of not spreading itself too thin. When a film such as L.A. Story, with such light emphasis on action and sound nuance and such heavy focus on dialogue, the 5.1 track can too often err towards laziness. It isn’t that there’s anything wrong. There just isn’t enough for it to do to be truly effective. That was the impression L.A. Story‘s 5.1 track left with me, to the point that I actually prefer the more stripped down 2.0 version, which evenly distributes dialogue and sound quality at a lush, full volume across both speakers.
This department actually surprised me. Of late, these anniversary editions don’t seem to have too much more going for them than a bare bones release. The bonus materials, while appearing detailed on the package, offer no real sustenance overall. Not the case here. The Story of L.A. Story featurette goes more in-depth than the glorified commercial syndrome from which so many of these things suffer. The L.A. of L.A. Story interactive map is lightweight fun. Some of the deleted scenes are better than what they left in the actual film. And the outtakes are worth one or two looks. Last, the theatrical marketing materials from 1991 round out a comprehensive look into the film.
L.A. Story violates my one and only rule for what makes a good comedy – it isn’t funny. Some things are supposed to be funny, but if I’m not laughing, I’m not laughing. It isn’t my fault; especially when I get the joke. But what’s funny to one isn’t to another, and vice versa. The film has a large share of supporters, who might turn a blind eye to what I call comedy. I respect that. And, if you’re one of those people, Lions Gate has respected your film. Good A/V and worthwhile bonus materials at a very affordable price – L.A. Story should find its way into several collections.
Special Features List
- The Story of L.A. Story
- The L.A. of L.A. Story Interactive Map
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Marketing Materials of 1991