Touchstone Pictures // 1995 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // February 1st, 2000
Oh, to be young...young and stuck in a bad movie.
One of cinema's most tired storylines, the young lovers on the run genre, gets another formula workout in Mad Love, director Antonia Bird's unusual choice for a follow-up to her interesting and controversial Priest. Drew Barrymore's Casey, a butterfly-loving free spirit given to cutting class in favor of joyrides in her Volkswagen Beetle, turns the head of typical good boy Matt (Chris O'Donnell, The Bachelor, Batman and Robin, The Three Musketeers) so quickly he nearly gets whiplash. Storm clouds, however, darken on the horizon as revelations of Casey's mental illness threaten the nascent relationship. The film spends a great deal of time going absolutely nowhere, with all of the expected plot points falling in line one after another. What should have been a thoughtful treatment of a real problem is buried by Paula Milne's tepid screenplay, which offers further argument that mental illness is too complex a subject for an hour and a half at the cineplex. The only redeeming element to this disc is that Disney released it, making my ruling on whether this tripe is worthy of purchase an easy one.
Heartthrob Chris O'Donnell (The Bachelor, Batman and Robin) and the seductive Drew Barrymore (The Wedding Singer, Scream) fall hard in Mad Love -- the wild and sexy story of two passionate young people who take to the road for the incredible adventure of their lives! Straitlaced Matt (O'Donnell) is immediately captivated by Casey (Barrymore), the beautiful and unpredictably rebellious new girl in town who refuses to play by the rules! But when they're faced with permanent separation, they decide to leave everything behind and run away together...and run head-on into the kind of passion, fun and excitement you won't soon forget!
This is perhaps the most fraudulent use of advertising copy on a jacket of a DVD to date. The more films I review, the more often I am reminded to ignore any copy written by the marketing department for place on a case. Well, perhaps I'm being too harsh. Drew Barrymore and Chris O'Donnell really were in the movies the copy says they were, and Matt really was captivated. It is only in the adjectives and what experience you expected to get from the copy that are written from whole cloth. This is, however, the section in which I am supposed to tell you what is good about the film and the disc. Perhaps that is even more telling I had to get the above off my chest already.
I'll go along and agree that Drew Barrymore really is cuddly and sexy. She plays the wild free-spirit as well as anyone around. And if that had been the movie I watched in Mad Love I'd at least be kind to it. Oops, I'm supposed to be positive still, forgive me. I found some elements of Ms. Barrymore's performance pleasant; she even managed to be sexy within the confines of the film's PG-13 rating. The cinematography wasn't bad either, some shots were nicely done, especially the outdoor scenes on the road.
The video wasn't that bad either, for another of Disney's non-anamorphic transfers. Colors were saturated well enough, with little loss of shadow detail. There was grain present, and some artifacts and pixelation, but it wasn't overly distracting.
This film had a choice. It could have been a story of star-crossed lovers on the run, misunderstood by their parents, where they live happily ever after; and the story would have been sappy but met its goals. It could have been a penetrating look at mental illness and its effect on family and friends, and been a far more important film. I really don't care which choice they made; either would have worked. I just wish they had actually made the choice, and not tried to be the first choice for most of the film only to attempt to be the second for the last 20 minutes. You are led to believe from the beginning that Drew Barrymore's character is really all right, just rebellious and misunderstood. Chris O'Donnell's character is hopelessly smitten and feels he has to rescue her from her overbearing parents and a bad situation. Then the movie turns on it's ear when we see the girl fall apart mentally, endangering both her and her boyfriend; and find out that it's all happened before, though the story gave us not a hint of it earlier. You spend most of the movie thinking, "Those parents don't know what they're talking about" and the rest saying, "I guess the parents knew best after all." A very disappointing film.
The disc is a typical Disney offering, and the beleaguered studio should know better by now. They've made announcements of their new commitment to anamorphic transfers and extra content; I can only hope this is the last of the holdovers that were already in production before this change of heart. Besides the very average non-anamorphic transfer, the 2.0 Dolby surround audio track was barely adequate. The soundstage is narrow and confining, with little use for the subwoofer or surrounds. Then of course we have only the trailer for extras, which contain scenes not even in the film. Normally a deleted scene would count as an extra, but not when it's in the trailer. In fact the one thing Disney usually does right they couldn't do here: the disc comes in an Alpha Keep Case rather than their usual Amaray.
Fans of Drew Barrymore will likely not listen to me and purchase the disc anyway, and some of them, particularly teens, will not be disappointed. Anyone else should at most rent it first, and for most of us I'd caution you not to even give it a rental; maybe, just maybe catch it on cable. It's a film I cannot recommend on a disc I cannot recommend.
Despite Poison Ivy and Mad Love, I can't stay mad at Drew Barrymore -- she's just too cute. She is released with a slap on the err...wrist. Chris O'Donnell is asked to play SOME role I can recommend to someone to watch. Disney should know better, and is trying the court's patience.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13