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Case Number 00166

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L.A. Story

Artisan // 1991 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Dean Roddey (Retired) // October 27th, 1999

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our review of L.A. Story: 15th Anniversary Edition, published June 26th, 2006, is also available.

The Charge

Something funny is happening in LA.

Opening Statement

This is definitely one of Steve Martin's best films, in my humble opinion. Martin wrote and stars in this light romantic comedy about the weirdness of life in LA. It is pure silly entertainment that makes no attempt to resolve any mysteries of the human condition, but perhaps in the end it actually does.

The Evidence

Steve Martin (A Simple Twist of Fate, Grand Canyon, Parenthood, The Spanish Prisoner, et cetera…) plays Harris Telemacher, a weatherman in a town that essentially has no weather. He seems to be living the perfect LA existence. He's on TV, he has a job that requires no thought, he has a high maintenance trophy girlfriend, he hangs out with the hip and trendy; but, he "has had seven heart attacks, all imagined." The problem is that he's so happy that he doesn't realize that he is deeply unhappy.

One day, while trying on clothes in a hip local store and trying not to look at all the artificially enhanced body parts in the nearby changing stalls, he meets a happy go lucky girl named SanDeE (with a little star at the end), played by Sarah Jessica Parker (Mars Attacks!, Ed Wood, Sex and the City). Being a "dumb male," he can't help but get involved with her. SanDeE is the quintessential LA chick who is living the Bohemian lifestyle and who is constantly in physical motion. She doesn't have a lot in the upstairs apartment, but she is good hearted, good looking, and easy to be with. Despite their having nothing in common, the release she provides from his normal life rut draws him to her.

But the primary thrust of the story is that Harris wants out of his current relationship (which is soon to happen easily enough), and is really interested in Sarah, played by Victoria Tennant (Edie & Pen, Best Seller), whom he meets through a shared acquaintance. Sarah is a journalist visiting from England to write a story on life in LA. Harris falls for her immediately, but believes that she is already involved with someone else; so, he continues to see SanDeE as he tries to maneuver his way into Sarah's life. As is the case with all romantic comedies, mix-ups and mayhem ensue as we wait to see how they will finally get together.

There are many cameo roles played by people such as Patrick Stewart (Capt. Picard of course), who plays the Maitre d' of the latest ultra-trendy restaurant, L'Idiot (pronounced Leedy-oh of course, since it's French). Harris has to meet him at the bank with a financial statement to see if he can get a reservation. He is told that with the shallowness of his financial oceans, he can have a reservation a couple months away and can only have chicken. At the front of the restaurant there is a monitor where the financial specifications of the entering patrons are posted. Some other cameos are by Rick Moranis, Woody Harrelson, and Terry Jones of Monty Python fame.

The entire film has a very dreamy quality to it, which I really liked. This is enhanced by a slightly over exposed look and the use of trance music by artists like Enya. Steve Martin gives us a look at LA as both a house of crazies and as a sort of transcendent paradise, where people rise every perfect morning to take "Slo Mo" showers. It walks a very interesting line between the real and the unbelievable that I found very charming and funny.

The extras consist of a trailer, a set of text screens that contain bios and the cameo appearances, and a small making of featurette. The featurette is pretty short and is more of a glorified trailer really. There is also a self-promotional featurette from Live Entertainment (which has since changed its name to Artisan) about how great they are blah blah blah.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

This disc is in a 1.85:1 letterboxed format, so it misses out on what I think could have been a very beautifully done anamorphic transfer. Some of the visuals are quite nice and would have benefited substantially from such a treatment. The digitally enhanced image from my Faroudja was a little soft, so it was not a super clean letterboxed transfer either. Part of the softness though comes from the somewhat angelic quality given to the film by overexposed whites. In one scene, where Martin is entering an outdoor restaurant, his white hair is almost nuclear looking from the high white level.

The audio is just a so-so Dolby 2.0 track. It gets the job done, but this film could have also made good use of a 5.1 audio track, since it is more than just a talky. Its understandable and gets the job done, but no more.

Closing Statement

This film will not change anyone's life, but its a very cute comedy that only the most cynical viewer wouldn't find entertaining. If you like Steve Martin's humor, you will almost certainly enjoy watching it. It might not play well in Peoria perhaps, where it might seem a little self-referential. But for the rest of us who get it, its an hour and a half of unchallenging laughs, which we could use since most of us have had a few imagined heart attacks also.

The Verdict

A suspended sentence for lack of high quality video and audio, but the defendant is released upon his on recognizance (whatever the heck that is).

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 70
Extras: 40
Acting: 90
Story: 90
Judgment: 74

Perp Profile

Studio: Artisan
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Spanish
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer
• Production Notes
• Cast and Crew Information
• Easter Eggs


• IMDb

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