Case Number 21209: Small Claims Court


MGM // 1988 // 104 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // April 25th, 2011

The Charge

A romantic comedy with the works.

The Case

They don't make movies like Mystic Pizza anymore, and that's a shame.

Maybe that's a little bold, laying a movie as basically inconsequential as some sort of example for what Hollywood is doing wrong. But the fact remains that there doesn't seem to be a place for the kind of modest, sweet comedy drama that Mystic Pizza succeeds at being. Now, every movie needs to be an event -- one that not only needs to gross upwards of $60 million, but which needs to cost as much as well. There's rarely a movie for adults to go see on a Saturday night that doesn't talk down to them, or a romantic comedy that's rated R for reasons other than because it shows characters comically ingesting bodily fluids. There is no raunch in Mystic Pizza, and no graphic sex. It's rating comes from the fact that some of its characters -- namely Julia Roberts' Daisy -- use colorful language, mostly because they don't know how to better express themselves. In fact, just cutting a few of the curse words and the movie could easily have received a PG-13 rating, and yet I'm glad that it didn't. More than enough movies have been marketed to 13-year-olds. It's nice that the grown ups get one every once in a while -- or, at least, used to. Almost 25 years ago.

Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) and Annabeth Gish (Beatiful Girls) star as sisters Daisy and Kat Arujo, employees at Mystic Pizza in the small fishing town of Mystic, Connecticut. Daisy, the pretty-but-sort-of-loose sister, hits it off with a rich yuppy kid who's just returned to town (Adam Storke, Stephen King's The Stand), while bookish Kat takes a job babysitting and falls for her client. The girls' best friend, Jojo (a very funny Lili Taylor, Brooklyn's Finest), has just left her longtime boyfriend Bill (Vincent D'Onofrio, Crooked Hearts) at the altar, but is still very much in love with him despite her fear of commitment. Over the course of a few months, the girls will all grow and change and learn about life and love and all of that stuff. Don't let the title fool you. The movie isn't about pizza. Much.

Yes, Mystic Pizza is a pretty typical coming-of-age movie (complete with a scene of the girls singing along to Aretha Franklin's "Respect" on the radio; to be fair, this is the first example of this I can recall seeing in my young life, probably because I hadn't yet seen Andrew McCarthy desperately warble the same song in St. Elmo's Fire, which technically came first), but one that's done with warmth and sincerity and several very good performances from some young actress before at least one of them became the biggest female movie star in the world. Julia Roberts isn't necessarily called upon to do much in the movie -- she's mostly just beautiful, tough and wounded -- but it's easy to see why she would go on to be a huge star. She holds the screen, as they say, and takes charge of every scene she's in whether she intends to or not. Annabeth Gish made a career out of playing parts like Kat in the 1980s, and here is dependably bookish and meek and naive in the ways of love (picture her character from Shag updated for the '80s); when she needs to do some heavy emoting late in the film, she gets away with it not because the scenes are particularly well acted (they may not be), but because she's so successfully inhabited her character and garnered so much goodwill that we feel instinctively protective of her. We don't want to see her get hurt, because we understand that she's the least equipped for it. Finally, there's Lili Taylor in one of her earliest performances. For my money, she's the best thing about Mystic Pizza, creating a funny, likable character where one doesn't necessarily exist. She's the friend that so many of us have but who is so rarely represented in movies. While not all of her actions make sense (her fear of commitment isn't really explored and is instead more of a plot device), Taylor makes us forgot that we even care about that. It's fun just to spend time with her.

Mystic Pizza arrives on Blu-ray in a modest, no-frills package courtesy of MGM. The film, presented in a 1080p HD transfer and its original 1.85:1 widescreen, is a definite improvement over the standard DVD without being anything special. The image is mostly flat, with colors that range from natural to drab at times; for the most part though, things look pretty good. Some dirt and debris is noticeable during the opening credits, but seems to disappear after that, leaving a clean image. The 2.0 DTS-HD track keeps things front and center but delivers dialogue clearly; anything more would have been overkill. Unfortunately, the only extra included is the movie's original theatrical trailer.

Mystic Pizza isn't the kind of movie that anyone is likely to seek out on Blu-ray, save for those who have fond memories of seeing it in the late '80s or diehard Annabeth Gish fans looking to fill the holes in their collection (good thing Desert Bloom is available on DVD). It's more the kind of movie you stumble across on cable one Sunday afternoon and stick with because Julia Roberts is in it and you've never heard of it. But for fans of this kind of movie -- the kind that doesn't really get released in theaters anymore -- it's worth tracking down.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile
Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)

* English (SDH)
* French

Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Trailer

* IMDb