MGM // 1994 // 117 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // August 10th, 2011
He's quite engaging; she's otherwise engaged.
Every year, the public is subjected to an interminable progression of middling to execrable romantic comedies -- dreary cookie-cutter exercises bereft of joy or passion. For some reason, we keep going to them: Anyone wondering why in name of God people keep making these movies or, more to the point, why we keep paying (relatively) good money to see them, look no further than Four Weddings and a Funeral. A bad romantic comedy doesn't just make you feel manipulated, it makes you wonder if all relationships are based on nothing more than mutual manipulation (that came out much dirtier than I had intended, but you know what I mean). However, when it works; ah, when it works, a romantic comedy is magic on a scale that Harry Potter can only dream of. MGM releases this delightful gem on Blu-ray, and it's just as captivating now as it was in 1994.
At this point, I'll assume that you're at least familiar with the plot; hell, the title sets that up nicely. Rather than go on about Hugh Grant's star-making turn, I'll instead point out a number of things that help this particular romcom rise about the others.
* We are unceremoniously dumped into the action. There's no setup, no expository section introducing us to the characters and presenting a contrivance that will bring the leads together. Just an extended string of F-bombs and we're OFF!
* No backstory. We don't know anything about these people, not even what they do for a living -- the commentary track notes that the film fared poorly in Japan precisely because everyone was trying to figure out what Charles' job was.
* The utter simplicity of the plot. Everything takes place within the context of the five titular events.
* Even though the plot focuses on Charles, all of his friends are going through the same process. Throughout the movie, couples are forming, leading up to the montage for the closing credits. So it isn't just a happy ending for Charles, but a happy ending for everyone.
* Little things. The details of the weddings seem spot on. They took great care in casting, even going so far as hiring veteran Jeremy Kemp (The Blue Max) for the crowd in the second wedding (the one which Rowan Atkinson officiates) simply because Kemp had such a good disapproving look. Seriously, they hired him to do a single reaction shot.
* John Hannah and Simon Callow -- not only are both performances a delight, but their characters' relationship is played in a wonderfully understated manner.
Technically, the disc is pleasing if not overwhelming. The AVC transfer provides strong details, good contrast, and -- something that is surprising hard to find -- consistent color saturation; the grass does not look so green as to suggest gamma irradiation, for instance. Blacks get a tad muddy in some of the night scenes, but it isn't distracting. The DVD video transfer was middling at best; this is a solid step up. The DTS-HD track is clear, but there's not really a lot for it to do. The bulk of the movie takes place in the front channels, though there is some nice surround work in the larger scenes. The music, on the other hand, makes full use of the surround channels, allowing both the songs as well as Richard Rodney Bennett's gentle but lovely incidental music to wrap you up. You get the same set of extras as the 2006 Four Weddings and a Funeral Deluxe Edition DVD; chief among these is the commentary track with screenwriter Richard Curtis (Blackadder, Love Actually), director Mike Newell, and producer Duncan Kenworthy. They are clearly having a blast, and they bring a lot of production information to the screen, and are extremely generous with their praise, for each other on occasion, but primarily for the actors. Particularly interesting is their discussion, scattered throughout, of how they worked to make sure that Charles could turn his back on his own wedding and retain the audience's sympathy.
For it's a jolly good Blu-Ray disc,
And so say all of us!
Review content copyright © 2011 Jim Thomas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes