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Case Number 00017

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Stepmom

Sony // 1998 // 125 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Kathy Leach (Retired) // May 18th, 1999

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All Rise...

The Charge

Be there for the joy. Be there for the tears. Be there for each other.

Opening Statement

Stepmom is a triumphant movie portraying the dynamics of a broken family trying to adjust not only to dad's new girlfriend, but also to cope with mom's terminal illness.

The Evidence

This disc's most attractive quality is its Academy Award winning cast. Julia Roberts puts in a strong performance as Isabel, Luke's (Ed Harris) new fiancée and future stepmom to his children. Based on her past roles, I doubted Ms. Roberts would be able to pull off a believable performance of this character. Boy was I in for a surprise! You can see the frustration on her face as she constantly tries to win the affection of Anna and Ben who are extremely loyal to their mother Jackie (Susan Sarandon). In addition, Isabel also faces the apprehension and untrustworthiness of Jackie and, at times, Luke.

Susan Sarandon's portrayal of Jackie was outstanding. You could sense that Jackie was jealous of this young, hip woman who forged an extremely successful career and also threatened her relationship with her children. Ed Harris as Luke doesn't become a main character until the proverbial monkey wrench is thrown into the story, i.e. he learns of Jackie's terminal cancer. He puts in a strong performance not only in supporting his new fiancée with the obstacles she is facing but supporting Jackie as she realizes that her cancer is one battle she will not win.

The biggest surprise of this movie is the stellar performance offered by Jena Malone as 12-year old Anna. The range of emotions portrayed by this young lady was incredible! You can see and hear the turmoil as she is torn between loyalty to her mother and growing admiration for her stepmother. Miss Malone is one to keep your eye out for in the future.

The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2:35:1, but, unfortunately, it is not anamorphically enhanced. This is a decent transfer with sharp edges, nice flesh-tones and acceptable color saturation. However, I felt the fall leaves of the quaint upstate town Jackie and the children call home lacked some vibrancy.

The audio was adequate for this type of movie. Dialogue was clean, clear and concise. Don't expect a lot of use of your LFE channel or surrounds because there is virtually no action in this movie.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The most negative thing about this disc is the story, which seemed a bit contrived. The film uses Jackie's impending death to pull at our heartstrings, which is too melodramatic. This film, without the subplot of Jackie's death, would have been far more honest and accurate. A decent story about three adults fighting for the future of two children would have remained. Such a script would never have progressed past movie-of-the-week status, which is really all this one deserved.

In my opinion, the extras contained on this disc are weak. It includes a making of featurette, theatrical trailer and biographies with filmographies that included personal data instead of a brief history of the main cast members. I think Columbia could have put more effort into this aspect of the disc, but I suppose it's better than nothing.

Closing Statement

Stepmom is a dramatic film with some light-hearted comedy thrown in. If you feel like shedding a few easy tears this is a must-see chick flick. If you are expecting a film that earns your emotions, look elsewhere.

The Verdict

Hung Jury. The movie is entertaining but not one I'd be dying to add to my collection. If I get the urge to see it again, I'll go to our local Blockbuster and save some money.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 65
Acting: 90
Story: 70
Judgment: 79

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genres:
• Drama
• Romance

Distinguishing Marks

• The Making Of Stepmom
• Featurette
• Trailers
• Talent & Filmographies

Accomplices

• IMDb








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