Sony // 1990 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Jonathan Nelson (Retired) // August 22nd, 2003
"If we're gonna waste the dude, we oughta get paid for it. I mean, that's the American way, ain't it?" -- Marlon (Keanu Reeves)
The '80s produced some very funny comedies. Ghostbusters for instance. I liked Ghostbusters. It played off the natural stereotypes of ghosts to amuse and delight the audience, plus it had the added bonus of letting Bill Murray get his comedic groove on to full effect. I don't really know where I'm going with this, but that didn't seem to stop the makers of I Love You to Death so I think it is only fair that I do the same.
Joey Boca (Kevin Kline, The Emperor's Club, Life as a House) sleeps around. He's with more different women than days in the week, some more than once a day. His doting wife, Rosalie (Tracey Ullman, that show that launched The Simpsons) suspects nothing despite cryptic warnings from their pizza parlor new-age busboy Devo (River Phoenix, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). So when Rosalie finally discovers her husband's flirtations with the fairer sex, he has to die, and it doesn't matter how many tries it takes.
Pushing back Italian-American stereotypes to Mario and Luigi days, this black comedy must be taken with a certain mood. While not the worst DVD this Judge has watched (not by a long shot, that honor still resides with Ignition), it nevertheless is a ponderous affair that never fully engages the viewer. You can tell it's supposed to deliver something big, but whatever it is never arrives. Whenever I have to turn the time remaining counter on, and leave it on, it usually doesn't bode well for the movie. It gets so ridiculous by the end none of it seems reasonable, let alone believable.
Despite a talented cast including Kline and Ullman, others who put their careers on hold for this picture are Joan Plowright, River Phoenix, William Hurt, Keanu Reeves, Victoria Jackson, Heather Graham, and Phoebe Cates from Gremlins. Phoenix, the '80s version of the '90s DiCaprio, has the least believable character, although Kline's histrionics are certainly a contender. Victoria Jackson (UHF), Heather Graham (Bowfinger, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) and Phoebe Cates' brief appearances show nothing that set them apart other than giving you the opportunity to sit up from your sofa and exclaim, "She's in this too?!" while pointing at said character on the screen. The most enjoyable moments actually come from Hurt and Reeves, two stoner cousins (Harlan and Marlon no less) who have absolutely no idea what's going on, what they are doing, or why they are in the movie in the first place.
The real problem I had with this movie was that it just wasn't funny. I wasn't looking for "ha ha" funny, but a few chuckles would have been nice. The only times I laughed were at the characters' sheer stupidity, such as Hurt and Reeves' Dumb and Dumber routine throughout the second half.
And why even bother establishing the setting of their family pizza parlor if your main character isn't even using it for his secret liaisons? He's not sleeping with the women he makes deliveries to, but instead to the women whom he leases apartments to. More unnecessities to confuse the awkward script.
The disc comes with both anamorphic widescreen and full screen for your viewing pleasure. Color levels are dark. They are there, but after a while it all just looks the same. Flesh tones aren't rich and most of the characters look gaunt because of it. Some dirt is noticeable, but not distractingly so. A few specks of grain crop up, but nothing overwhelming. No noticeable edge enhancements or halos either.
The sound only comes in Dolby Surround 2.0. Nothing spectacular here, but an adequate mix for what is needed.
Extra content is equally sparse. Three trailers, for Manhattan Murder Mystery, Murder by Death, and So I Married and Axe Murderer are all to be found. The last one shows an interesting portrayal of Dr. Evil doing a Mike Meyers impersonation. (Yes, those names are in the correct order.) Aside from that, there's nothing else to distract you from the show, aside from maybe the overwhelming number of subtitles. English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai. I guess I missed the international box-office records that were smashed with this movie to warrant this overwhelming necessity of lingual deployment.
Supposedly based from a true story, it would have been nice to know what actually happened before they sold the movie rights. Seeing as that's unavailable, perhaps some interviews, or something to explain this mess. These characters obviously have a lot going through their heads, literally and figuratively for some characters. Lying straight faced to each other all the time, it would be nice if some of that internal conflict showed on the screen a little more.
An acquired taste, I Love You To Death isn't for everyone. Not worth buying, but perhaps worth the rental price if you want to see the actors before they became more acclaimed at their trade.
Guilty of serving a bad slice of pizza, a serious offense in this Judge's book. Columbia TriStar is fined $500,000 for its poor treatment of the disc, money which will be sent to the Actors Who Survived Bad Movies Retirement Fund. Case adjourned.
Review content copyright © 2003 Jonathan Nelson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Bottom 100 Discs: #56
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated R