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Case Number 00964

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Mystic Pizza

MGM // 1988 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 7th, 2001

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All Rise...

Back when Mystic Pizza was released ("A romantic comedy with the works!"), two years before she would hit it big with Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts was just another face in an ensemble cast. Now that she is a megastar rivaled only by Andrea Barber, her smiling mug is plastered in soft focus all over the DVD cover art. A bloody shame, that is. Judge Patrick Naugle throws yet another book at this anchovy-laden romantic comedy. Mmmm...anchovies.

Editor's Note

Our review of Mystic Pizza (Blu-ray), published April 25th, 2011, is also available.

The Charge

Servin' up pizza with a side of L-O-V-E!

Opening Statement

Raise your hand if you want to see Julia Roberts with really BIG '80s hair accompanied by a dress with a really big bowtie on the front!

That's what I thought. Ah…the decadence of the 1980s. And what a decade it was. It gave us some of the best cinematic treats ever (Back To The Future, Ghostbusters, Ferris Bueller's Day Off just to name a scant few), plus we got that whole Devo "whip it" thing. In 1988, audiences were given a glimpse of one of Miss Roberts' early film performances in the chick-flick Mystic Pizza. Also starring a young Vincent "Phillip" D'Onofrio (Full Metal Jacket, Men In Black), Lili Taylor (The Haunting) and Annabeth Gish (Beautiful Girls), Mystic Pizza is the type of movie you just may want to gobble up on DVD.

Facts of the Case

Welcome to the town of Mystic, Connecticut, and the "superb" pizza at the local diner, Mystic Pizza. It's in this restaurant that we're privy to the lives of three local waitresses just out of high school: hot headed Daisy (Roberts), her brainy sister Kat (Gish), and their best friend Jojo (Taylor). Like any good romantic comedy, complicated love scenarios must be present. Mystic Pizza sliced up plenty of those.

Jojo and her boyfriend Bill (D'Onofrio) are at their wedding exchanging vows when Jojo passes out in front of the alter. She's not sure that she wants to get married (duh). She thinks she loves Bill, but she's not sure how much. Bill is very ready (he's a local fisherman. What's not to love?) and wants to have Jojo as his wife. Jojo makes the thought-inducing statement "If he really loved me he'd wait. Then again, I guess if I loved him I'd marry him." To my knowledge, this is the only movie in the history of Hollywood that has the guy begging the girl to marry him.

Next there's Daisy. She's the girl that's wild, uninhibited, and sexy. Or, as another character calls her, the local slut. She's got a bad temper and an even worse mouth (she could swear the Gorton's Fisherman under the table). One night while playing pool a pampered hunk named Charles (Adam Storke) walks into her life. Sparks immediately fly between the two as a torrid romance begins. But is Charles everything that he seems?

Finally there's Kat, the local with the most promise. She gazes at the stars, the moon, and the friendly married guy she's working for. Kat is babysitting for Tim's (William R. Moses) daughter Phoebe while Tim's wife is out of town for a while. As Kat spends more time with Tim she starts to become attracted to him (don't mind the fact that he looks like a nerdy version of Eric Stoltz…wait, is that being redundant?). Don't mind the fact that he's, um, what's that word…oh yeah, MARRIED.

As the days go on their love lives become more and more complicated. Will Jojo and Bill marry? Is Charles good enough for Dasiy? Doesn't Kat realize that Tim's MARRIED?

Just like the secret ingredients in the local pizza, Mystic Pizza is full of surprises.

The Evidence

I'm a guy. There's just no getting around it (well, there is but it involves costly surgery and a completely different lifestyle). Being a guy, Mystic Pizza is not the type of film I'd ever watch on my own unless A.) there was a large mudslide and I was trapped with just a DVD player and this film or B.) I was told to review it. The latter happened, so I sat down to watch Mystic Pizza with nary a woman in sight. As I started watching Mystic Pizza I was surprised to feel a slight tingle inside. I started feeling warm and fuzzy as I realized "hey, after watching 30 minutes of this movie I really feel like my foot's asleep." After walking around a little the feeling came back and I went to finish up Mystic Pizza.

The good news is that Mystic Pizza is not as bad as I thought. I'm somewhat of a virgin (no laughing) when it comes to these kinds of films. I've never seen Steel Magnolias, skipped out on Never Been Kissed, and fell fast asleep during The English Patient. Yes, a good romantic movie for me is something like Army Of Darkness (hey, they had a few love scenes…granted there were demons and zombies, but they're in there if you really look). Though I wouldn't say I was overly enthused about Mystic Pizza, it did keep my attention and has some decent acting.

The storyline is pretty basic; a bunch of girls fall for different kinds of guys, fall in love or get screwed over, then drive around in a car drunkenly singing along to Aretha Franklin's "Respect." Yes, all the clichés are here, folks. It's the performances that end up selling this movie, not the script.

Julia Roberts is fine as…well, Julia Roberts. Roberts is pretty much the same character in every movie. Here she plays a mix of her characters from Pretty Woman and Erin Brokovich. She's sexy, feisty, and has really big lips. Taylor is funny as Jojo, a very distraught woman who has no idea what she wants out of love. Taylor is the best of this group, able to convey a range of emotions, showing why she's become one of today's most respected actresses. Annabeth Gish is plain, bordering on Amish.

Mystic Pizza is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks very good. The transfer is well done with colors being very bright and blacks being solid. Edge enhancement was not spotted, though a bit of grain is present here and there. Digital artifacting was absent as well as bleeding of colors. For you romance fans you couldn't ask for much better. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 (Spanish, English, French). Music and effects were mixed evenly without drowning out dialogue. This is a romantic comedy, so your sound system isn't going to be sweating bullets by the end of the film. Even though it's Dolby 2.0, crank that baby up and give it the "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" it deserves.

MGM has once again dropped the ball in the way of extras (everyone who's shocked stand up and please leave the room). An anamorphic theatrical trailer is all and that's about as exciting to watch as raw macaroni.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Aside of the fact that there are a LOT of outdated hairdos and styles prevalent here, Mystic Pizza really isn't that bad. Yes, there were some spots that made me roll my eyes (at a few points it was like viewing the music video for "Girls Just Want To Have Fun") but overall the film is not that bad. One complaint is that they don't use the great Vincent D'Onofrio very much. He's on screen, then gone as quickly as he appeared. What's up with that?

The script is weak, though mostly because it's a garbled mess of generalities and over cooked love scenes. A young woman and a married man. The rich guy and the local tramp. The only original story is with Jojo and Bill and her wedding day jitters. Back in 1988 I'm sure that made for wonderful entertainment; today it takes a lot more than that to make a good romantic comedy (please don't hate me. Be advised that the person writing this review also thought that that Ski Patrol was so funny it made him spurt milk out his nose). Lucky for Mystic Pizza it has the attitude and charm to pull off a decent film watching experience.

Closing Statement

For around $14.99 this is a pretty good deal for you women and men who can't get enough of that mushy gook I call "love." Mystic Pizza is certainly not going to win any awards, but it's a fun film to watch with the one you're goo-goo for (or whenever that mudslide hits). Though it's not something I need in my collection, it makes for a good single viewing.

The Verdict

Innocent and free to go. How could I lock this little guy up? If it were put it away for good it would end up being gang raped by The Toxic Avenger Part 2 and I Spit On Your Grave in the laundry room.

Case dismissed!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 89
Audio: 84
Extras: 45
Acting: 86
Story: 70
Judgment: 76

Perp Profile

Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• Theatrical Trailer


• IMDb

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