Looking for romance? This three-movie collection from MGM likes long walks on the beach, candle-light dinners and formulaic plots. The films have been around a while, but a fresh new look makes this set an attractive option.
As is usually the case for common-theme boxed sets, Romance 101 includes one stinker, one hit and one older gem you probably forgot about years ago. The movies aren’t the greatest examples of the genre, but the studio sweetens the deal, offering you three films for the price of one new-release DVD. Hit the jump for a rundown of these three discs.
Please note: this review borrows from existing upcomingdiscs.com reviews of these individual discs. Credit is due Jeremy Frost for Heartbreakers and Legally Blonde. Hey, if MGM’s not going to take the time to make new films, we’re not going to write new reviews..
Let’s start with the stinker, Heartbreakers – Special Edition (2001):
To all of you Jennifer Love-Hewitt fans out there, you are in for a treat with this film. Sure, the story is not great, and the film is not that funny, but she sure looks good.
When it comes conning millionaires, Page Conners (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her mother Max (Sigourney Weaver) are real pros. Max lures them to the alter, then page leads them into temptation… and a hefty divorce settlemen…! Now they’re about to strike gold with the ultimate sting: a wealthy, wheezing tobacco tycoon (Gene Hackman). But before they can seal the deal, Page breaks the cardinal rule of the con and falls in love! Now Max must convince Page to hold on to her heart and the tobacco fortune… or lose the best partner in crime she’ll ever have.
Next up is the hit, Legally Blonde (2001):
I will be the first to admit that I expected very little from this film… and I can honestly say that I enjoyed it more than I expected. This is not to say that it is a groundbreaking film, but it was fun.
Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is a California blonde with couture clothes, a perfect manicure, fabulous friends, an adorable Chihuahua and the cutest boyfriend on fraternity row… So, when Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis) suddenly dumps her for being “too blonde” and not “serious” enough for his future political career and heads to Harvard Law School, Elle is devastated. Determined not to give up, Elle enrolls too! Now getting Warner back should be a “bend and snap,” right? Wrong. Elle’s about to begin the toughest fight of her life — for love, honor, justice, and respect for blondes everywhere.
Then there’s The Cutting Edge:
We haven’t covered this one before. In The Cutting Edge, Moira Kelly (The West Wing) and D. B. Sweeney (Eight Men Out) star as polar opposites who unite on the ice for a shot at Olympic gold in this inspirational romantic comedy from director Paul M. Glaser (The Air Up There). Kelly is an Olympic figure skater who’s down a partner. Sweeney is a Olympic hockey player whose career has taken an unfortunate turn. Together, they might enjoy a new opportunity to fulfill their dreams, on and off the ice — if they could only get along.
Anyone who’s seen this film will remember, “toe-pick!” It’s a memorable line from the film’s enjoyable back-and-forth antagonism between the leads. It’s also a reminder that while The Cutting Edge has a cheesy, 100% formulaic plot, Kelly’s and Sweeney’s performances make it an enjoyable film. The two have great on-screen chemistry, which raises the movie above most of Hollywood’s so-called romantic comedies. If you missed out on this one in 1992, it’s time to check it out.
- Heartbreakers – Special Edition: Video was quite lackluster on this disc. The picture looked grainy and the colors were somewhat muted. The picture transfer was careless, with lots of artifacts visible to the eye, including what seem to be dust particles and hair fragments. The color, at times, was vibrant but overall it felt uninspiring. For such a recent film, I expected a much better transfer. The picture is a nice anamorphic widescreen transfer (2.35:1).
- Legally Blonde: This disc looked fabulous. The film has a lot of vibrant colors, especially a lot of pink. All were very sharp and clean. There were very few transfer artifacts and flaws in the print. Occasionally, you can notice some granulation in the transfer, but flaws are few and far between. Included on this disc are both the 2.35:1 widescreen transfer and the 1.33:1 full frame transfer. Nice job, MGM.
- The Cutting Edge: This disc is just a bare-bones release, not the double-dip “Gold Medal Edition.” That means you’re looking at a 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen presentation, with few of the wonders of DVD technology applied to make it pretty. I’m sure it looks better than your sister’s old VHS copy, but you won’t be remarking about picture clarity or gorgeous colours. For 2007 standards, this is definitely sub-par.
- Heartbreakers – Special Edition: The Heartbreakers soundtrack was handled very nicely with the 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track. Music was crisp and the soundstage was pleasant. This film did not really call for wonderful surround effects, but the surrounds were used nicely to convey the score. The center channel was accurate, and there was nice side-to-side audio movement. Comedies are not very effective media for amazing sound, but this DVD did well with what it had to work with.
- Legally Blonde: Even though you can tell that this is a comedy by the audio presentation, this disc still sounds good. Most comedies, including this one, fail to effectively use the surround channels to their full potential. The score was very effective from all channels, and the bass was good, but the effects were noticeable from the rear channels. It is too bad, but really, how important are the surrounds to a comedy. I guess that is why films such as this never get the WOW treatment in regards to surround effects. The voices all came across very clearly, and the overall sound to the film was very good.
- The Cutting Edge: Once again, there’s no double-dip love for this one. You’ll be listening to a lacklustre 2.0 mix, and it’s just as sub-par as the video. Sure, you won’t have trouble hearing any of the lines, and you’ll be able to discern which genre the soundtrack draws from, but the overall sound is flat and boring. This movie deserves more.
- Heartbreakers – Special Edition: with two audio commentaries, 19 deleted scenes with optional commentary, one making-of featurette and a blooper reel, this disc offers plenty of bonus material to sink your teeth into.
- Legally Blonde: Not to be out-done, this disc also features two commentary tracks, along with some surprisingly good deleted scenes, a making-of featurette, a piece about hair design, a music video, a trivia track that pops up while you watch, and the original theatrical trailer.
- The Cutting Edge: Yet again, the best film of the bunch gets the short shrift. The only noteworthy extra on this disc is the film’s original theatrical trailer.
With three films for the price of one DVD, College Essentials: Romance 101 offers solid value. While Heartbreakers is completely forgettable, Legally Blonde and the under-rated The Cutting Edge more than make up for it. If you like romantic comedies and don’t already own one or both of the latter two, buying this set is a no-brainer.
- Foywonder.com takes a look at the other College Essentials sets from MGM.
- BoxOfficeCritic.com presents the Top Ten romantic comedies of all time.