"Richie loved to use 22s because the bullets are small and they don't come out the other end like a 45. See, a 45 will blow a hole like a barn door out the back of your head and there's a lot of dry cleaning involved. But a 22 will just rattle around like Pac-Man until you're dead."—Vincent "Vinnie" Antonelli
My Blue Heaven is a delightful farce of a comedy. Directed by Herbert Ross (Steel Magnolias, Footloose, The Secret of My Suce$s), the film pairs a couple of very funny actors, Steve Martin (Bowfinger, Father of the Bride, Housesitter) and Rick Moranis (Spaceballs, Ghostbusters, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids). The movie doesn't have a serious bone in its body, and anyone thinking the story should make sense simply doesn't get it. Steve Martin hasn't played a role this over the top since The Jerk. The disc has some good news and some bad news; the bad news being that this is a Warner Brothers ultra-budget disc, meaning it's pan-and-scan without any extras, not even a trailer. The good news is you can buy it for ten bucks online or at Wal-Mart. The movie itself warranted my purchase of a disc I otherwise wouldn't touch, though I have no complaints with it for what it is.
Why would I, a jaded DVD reviewer, touch a pan-and-scan only disc? To be honest, it was an impulse purchase at a retail store because I liked the movie. And a funny movie it is too; I've seen it several times and still got a good laugh or three when watching it for this review. The antics of Steve Martin and the chemistry between Martin and Moranis made this movie. The premise and execution was well done as well.
The premise is that Vinnie Antonelli (Martin), a middle level lieutenant in a New York mob family, chooses testifying over prison and is placed in the Witness Protection Program. Stuck in Fryburg, California, a white-bread suburb of San Diego, Vinnie tries to get over on and is protected by Agent Barney Coopersmith (Moranis). Vinnie is as wild and sleazy as they come while Barney is so stuffy he has a system for eating pancakes. Vinnie, in his Armani suits fits into Fryburg like a bordello in a Methodist Church. It doesn't take long before he is getting hauled in before District Attorney Hannah Stubbs, played by Joan Cusack (Grosse Point Blank, Arlington Road, Addams Family Values). Barney shows up to get him out of trouble, claiming his status as a federal witness is more important than any larcenies he may have committed, and Hannah is furious. Of course this just leaves Vinnie to move into ever-increasing crime, especially when he finds the town is crawling with ex-mobsters who are also hidden by the program.
At first Vinnie is only getting over on the naïve Coopersmith; escaping from protective custody to visit his tailor and get some good Italian food. But when Barney catches up to him, Vinnie teaches him a bit about style and women with his own brand of eccentric wisdom. Of course Vinnie is acting very recklessly, and more than once Barney has to protect him from mob assassins. As Vinnie and Barney get closer, Barney gains self-confidence and a big change in wardrobe. Vinnie decides then that Hannah and Barney belong together, and turns his con man cunning to getting them together. Of course Hannah also learns to loosen up and enjoy life from Barney, even as she tries to put Vinnie in jail for all his crimes.
I don't know how funny the straight plot sounds, but it is executed with flair. Vinnie's brash and over the top delivery as a mobster gains a chuckle by itself, and his oozing confidence and way with women bring the humor factor up even higher. Vinnie is the kind of guy who would steal 95 bucks worth of stuff from you and tip you $100 as he left. It's the crime, it's his way, the money is irrelevant. The romantic entanglements also bring a smile, and it's nice to see the downtrodden and self-conscious Hannah and Barney finally come into their own.
Even with such a budget disc (MSRP is $14.95 and you can get it for $10) Warner does a pretty fair job with the picture and sound. Colors and detail are very good, without artifacts. I did detect a shade of moiré pattern once, and the source print had a bit of grain especially visible in the beginning credits, but overall the look was very nice. The sound is nothing to get excited about but is a nice Dolby Surround track, with plenty of width to the front soundstage, clear dialogue, and a punch to the music. For such a track, it's actually pretty good.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Well, so much for the good stuff. Even for a budget disc, why couldn't they use the original aspect ratio? I feel a bit soiled having to buy this movie in pan-and-scan. Even a non-anamorphic widescreen would have been better than this. Of course the alternative is seeing it on cable, and it would be pan-and-scan there too. I can only sigh about that and hope eventually we get a chance to see it in widescreen. In fact, there is a screenshot of the movie in widescreen on the back of the case! Bewildering.
As I said, there are absolutely no extras. Even a trailer would have been nice, and a commentary track with Martin and Moranis would have been golden. Of course then it wouldn't have been a budget disc, but in this case I'd have paid more to get widescreen and real extras. Alas, I don't see this title getting revisited anytime soon, so this is what you get. At least it's cheap.
I can't in good conscience recommend you buy this disc, but I will anyway. I say that only because the movie is darn funny and the disc is so inexpensive. It would make a decent rental in any case, on an evening when you just want to sit back and be entertained with a silly, funny tale. The picture and sound are actually quite good within its own limitations.
Warner is sentenced to doing even their budget discs in original aspect ratio; as I don't believe it costs a penny more and perhaps less than doing a pan-and-scan. Most of their budget discs are widescreen actually. The cast is excused and I'll exchange a not-guilty verdict in exchange for the number of Vinnie's tailor.
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