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Case Number 01555

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Soapdish

Paramount // 1991 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // December 3rd, 2001

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All Rise...

The Charge

A comedy about sex, jealously, and other things that make daytime TV great.

Opening Statement

Millions of people are addicted to daytime soaps (as well as nighttime soaps like reruns of Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place). Who can't resist the titillating temptation of watching everyone in eyesight sleep with everyone else while having babies with a long lost brother's father as they backstab their best friend's mother who was thought dead thirty years ago in a tragic tractor accident in Prague while subsequently harboring the horrible secret that she is really her own GRANDMOTHER!?! Please write me so I can figure out what I just said. On a lighter note, Paramount has finally released the complex screwball comedy Soapdish on DVD!

Facts of the Case

Soapdish plays out just like a daytime soap, only the real drama is going on behind the camera instead of in front of it! Celeste Talbert (Sally Field, Places In The Heart) is "America's Sweetheart" of the soap world on the daytime drama "The Sun Also Sets." Celeste suddenly becomes the victim of a conspiracy to get her written off the show by the conniving Montana Moorhead (Cathy Moriarty, Another Stakeout), a blonde sexpot who has given promises of unbridled sex to the producer (Robert Downey, Jr., starring in most correctional institutions) if he will get Celeste canned . Celeste has a friend in one of the head writers (Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost) who is being forced to bring back an older character who was originally decapitated in an a past episode ("How can I write for him?" she blubbers, "He has no head! No vocal chords!"). The character was originally played by Jeffery Anderson (Kevin Kline, A Fish Called Wanda) who was at one time Celeste's lover. At the same time a new actress has been hired on (Elizabeth Shue, Hollow Man) who starts off with a bit part but soon finds herself the centerpiece of the show as well as all of the actor's lives. Soapdish has more comedic subplots in it than any other film I can recall (and I didn't even mention the characters played by Garry Marshall, Kathy Najimy, Teri Hatcher, and Carrie Fisher)! Let the battle begin!

The Evidence

Soapdish is like a frantic screwball comedy of the '40s and '50s with exceptionally funny performances by all involved. Written by Andrew Bergman (The In-Laws) and Robert Harling, Soapdish moves along at a frantic pace that will leave viewers breathless because they'll be so busy laughing…and figuring out what the heck is going on. I tip my hat to the writers and director of Soapdish for being able to keep all these plots and characters in order without having anything get lost in the shuffle. The story intertwines around itself just like an old-fashioned soap, only with much more comedic results. Greed, lust, jealousy, and revenge are the entrees of the day at the Soapdish cafe, and for some reason I wasn't the least bit surprised to see that this was an Aaron Spelling production.

The script is sharp and full of funny one-liners and situations that each actor successfully plays off of. In fact, there isn't one bad performance in this whole movie. While I'm normally not a Sally Field fan, I rather enjoyed her obnoxious portrayal of Celeste Talbert (a woman in such dire need of attention that she takes her best friend with her to the mall to make a scene over Celeste's celebrity status). Robert Downey, Jr. is great as David, the sex starved producer who wants nothing more than some animalistic nookie from Montana (the character, not the state). Kevin Kline, Whoopi Goldberg and Elizabeth Shue are all wonderful as supporting characters who get caught up in the wackiness surrounding Celeste. I was pleased to see Garry Marshall pop up in a cameo as the head of the show, and Teri Hatcher dons a big pair of boobs and lips in a funny pre-Lois and Clark performance that should please those who run fan pages of her on the internet.

It's a testament how good Soapdish is when the thing they're lampooning isn't something I'd normally care about. A farce about soap operas is the last thing I'd be interested in, but Soapdish really is a riot from beginning to end. If it sounds like I'm gushing over the movie…well, I am. It's just a really goofy movie. Just make sure you don't get caught watching it with your uncle's brother's secret twin sister. I'm no expert, but that could lead to trouble.

Soapdish is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I wasn't surprised to find this transfer to be above passing, though nowhere near close to perfect. While the colors and black levels all looked bright and even, there was some dirt and grain in the picture along with a slight amount of edge enhancement in a few scenes. The image also sports a somewhat soft look, though this may be intentional due to the theme of the film. Paramount has done a decent job on this transfer, though it's not as up-to-snuff as one might expect.

Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as Dolby 2.0 in English and Dolby Stereo in French. Seeing as this isn't an effects heavy movie, I wasn't surprised to find this 5.1 remix to be subtle and quite. There are times when the surround feature kicked in (mostly with Alan Silvestri's upbeat music score), but otherwise this is a middle-of-the-road audio track. Dialogue, effects, and music are all free and clear of distortion or hiss. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.

Sadly, Soapdish is void of any real substantial extra features. The only thing you movie lovers get is a theatrical trailer presented in anamorphic widescreen and a "behind-the-scenes" featurette that's a big piece of fluff (a few short interviews, many clips from the film, then it's all over).

Closing Statement

Few comedies really make you laugh from start to finish. Luckily, Soapdish is that type of movie. With funny plots that pile up on each other and characters that seem to be from some other galaxy (hey, after all this is a movie about Hollywood), Soapdish is more fun than a bag full of Emmys. Paramount has done only passable work on this title, and the exclusion of any type of fulfilling supplements make this disc a bit steep at around 25 bucks (though worth the price if you love the movie).

The Verdict

Soapdish is free to go while Paramount is slapped with a small fine for iffy work on this DVD!

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Scales of Justice

Video: 86
Audio: 81
Extras: 40
Acting: 97
Story: 97
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genre:
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer

Accomplices

• IMDb








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