In My Girl, Anna Chlumsky makes an extraordinary acting debut as Vada Sultenfuss, a precocious 11-year-old tomboy obsessed with death. Macauley Culkin is Thomas J., the boy next door who idolizes Vada. Their summer adventures – from first kiss to last farewell – introduce Vada to the world of adolescence. Now fully remastered in high definition, MY GIRL is a motion picture to cherish and share across generations.
“I’m embalming my high school teacher, don’t sing!”
Movies about growing up and facing the inevitabilities of life are a tough sell. For one thing they’re usually geared towards kids or specifically families so there is always this balancing act when it comes to the treatment of death. Some only make slight allusions to death, others take it head on. As a kid that grew up in the 80s, I got to experience my fair share of cinematic deaths what with ‘Transformers: The Movie,’ and ’Land Before Time.’ Then, if you’re at all in my age range, you probably remember ‘My Girl’ very specifically - but I won’t go into that just in case you haven’t seen the movie.
One thing I will say is now as an adult, I’m much more aware of these themes, even though I wasn’t aware of them as a kid. In spite of the reoccurring theme of death, ‘My Girl’ is ultimately a movie about growing up and experiencing things ending and the new beginnings that come over the course of a single summer. With the film set in the early 70s, there is a sense of nostalgic innocence to it, from the cars and clothing, to television programing, and county carnivals. Through it all we follow Vada, Anna Chlumsky in her first role who has a prolonged obsession with death, always believing that she has contracted some illness where she pesters the town doctor to believe her symptoms. Not helping her obsession is her father’s profession as the town’s undertaker. Heaping on top of that is the guilt that she feels in her eyes being the cause of her mother’s death who died two days after Vada was born.
Through it all her father, Dan Aykroyd, does what he can to help the girl, believing this obsession is just part of a phase. Her best friend Thomas, a charming Macaulay Culkin, stands by her side as her only friend. Together the pair travel around town on their bikes, go swimming, fishing, nothing like the things other girls Vada's age while on summer vacation. Throwing things off for Vada is the arrival of Shelly, Jamie Lee Curtis who starts out innocently as her father’s new makeup assistant but things turn into a budding romance taking taking away much needed attention from this precocios young girl.
‘My Girl’ is one of those movies that could easily be written off as just another “coming of age summer” movies, but it’s just too sweet and wonderful to be pigeon holed into such a simplistic category. Even in the face of a tragic event, the movie maintains an innocence that is to be commended. It feels like the average kids movie these days, unless it’s produced by Pixar, is bent on avoiding death and tragedy and the responsibility these emotions elicit. Looking at this movie with adult eyes makes me appreciate that this movie wasn’t simple shallow entertainment.
Helping to bring this movie home are the great performances from everyone involved. Dan Aykroyd is wonderful as the concerned father and Jamie Lee Curtis is great as the new love interest who knows she’s going to have to be a mother to an eleven year old girl. Then you have the great child performances, headed by then new comer Anna Chlumsky. She’s the center of the movie and carries the weight of a lot of emotion on her shoulders. Adding nicely to the mix is Macaulay Culkin hot off the previous years success ‘Home Alone.’ Mastering everything is the assured direction by the late Howard Zieff.
‘My Girl’ unexpectedly turned out to be a tough movie to summarize. I could go into great detail and talk about the film blow for blow, but I feel that would be a disservice to the people who haven’t seen the movie and it’s just not necessary for those who have seen it. It’s best to talk about it from an emotional standpoint. It’s a movie that’s going to make you happy, laugh a little, and most likely a little weepy in a place or two, but that’s okay - as this movie makes the point - it's a part of life. If you’re like me and haven’t seen the film in a number of years, give it another shot. If you’ve never seen the film, it’s time to put this disc in your player and give it a spin.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
‘My Girl’ arrives from Sony on a region free BD50 disc. Housed in a standard Blu-ray case, the back of the artwork states the film has been mastered in 4k. Inside is an Ultraviolet Digital HD code.
‘My Girl’ being a movie of 24 years now, looks stunning in this 1.85:1 1080p HD presentation. Detail is absolutely exquisite here. Film grain is just visible enough to dispel any worry that the movie has been scrubbed to death. Being a 70s period movie, colors are in fine form. Don’t let the darker lighting in the earlier scenes worry you, as soon as Vada and Thomas take off on their bikes, things are beautiful as primaries have real pop and life to them. Flesh tones for the most part are spot on, if pushed towards the pink side at times, but not so bad that you’d notice really. Black levels and shadows for the most part are near perfect giving the film a great sense of three dimensional depth.
Some of the darker scenes, particularly during the carnival scene, can look an oddly blue/purple color at times. It’s an intermittent effect as shot to shot it can change, which makes me wonder if that isn't a part of the source elements rather than a transfer issue. Taken as a whole, this is another striking release from Sony.
‘My Girl’ comes with a fine English DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless audio track. It’s a pretty good surround track, but it isn’t very powerful. The surround channels rarely get much of a work out with an exception being the bumper car sequence. Voices come through with fine clarity as does the sweet natured score from James Newton Howard. Levels are nice and even without any kind of distortion. Imaging, much like the use of the surround channels is only okay. This just isn’t an action packed movie with a lot of sound effects to clutter the mix other than ambient sounds here and there to fit the scene. It’s not a bad track, it just doesn’t blow your hair back.
Also present on this disc are Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Japanese surround tracks.
Commentary with Writer Laurice Elehwany: It’s a nice commentary track all around, she discusses the background of the film, writing it, and it’s basis on experiences she had growing up in small town Pennsylvania. It isn't a steady conversation, her commentary comes in and out, almost like an extended interview rather than a sit down viewing of the film.
A Day On Set: First Kiss & Bingo! (HD 4:43) These are a brief behind the scenes look at shooting two scenes from the movie on location. It’s mostly video footage from the set that’s been compiled together.
Original Behind The Scenes Featurette (SD 6:01) This vintage behind the scenes piece looks like it may have been part of an EPK package, it features a lot of VHS quality footage - so it kinda works to make you appreciate the HD era we’re currently living in.
Going into this review for Sony’s Blu-ray release of ‘My Girl’ I was worried my fond memories of the movie wouldn’t hold up well and this would be another case of nostalgia gone awry. Thankfully this movie holds up remarkably well nearly 25 years after release. It was a wonderful film to revisit again and soak in the sense of charm it exudes. With this great story and fine cast, there is little to fault this film. Presented with a wonderful 4K master and a fine DTS-HD track, ‘My Girl’ gets a great Blu-ray debut.