Steve Martin has been (justifiably) praised for so long as a physical comedian and actor that it's easy to overlook his accomplishments as a screenwriter. As he showed with such hits as the Hollywood satire 'Bowfinger' and, perhaps even more impressively, 'Roxanne,' his update of the classic play "Cyrano de Bergnac," Martin proves himself not only literate, but one of the most underrated screenwriters in Hollywood, regardless of his day job. 'Roxanne' is still his finest gem of a script, however -- an update of a classic that manages to stay true to the original, while still bringing a unique and modern take to well-worn material. It's a warm, witty film that you just want to hug.
One of the best quotes I've heard praising 'Roxanne' is that it "brings back the loveliness of love." Indeed, revisiting the film again after so many years, what's beguiling about it is that, despite some dated elements, it's about the emotions behind attraction and not the mechanics. Martin's script understands that chemistry is based on the connection between human hearts and minds, not just body parts (the size of one's, er, nose, matters not). 'Roxanne' is perhaps not given the credit it deserves as one of those movies that rewards more with each viewing -- it's metaphors and multiple layers of meaning become more and more apparent every time I watch it.
Like all good movies, 'Roxanne' sees all of its creative elements mesh well. Director Fred Schepsi has just the right understated touch with the romance that is neither too schmaltzy nor too remote. He also handles the slapstick elements adroitly, as they could easily have gone way too over-the-top and turned into camp. The film's look, if natural, has a very nice color palette and the widescreen photography by Ian Baker recalls classic French farce without coming off as pretentious pastiche. The production design, costumes, and score are also spot-on -- the film oozes quaint charm.
'Roxanne' is also, of course, filled with wonderful performances by a diverse ensemble. A much-missed Shelley Duvall is finally given a character that doesn't seem demeaning, and it's great to see such quirky actors as Michael J. Pollard, Fred Willard, John Kapelos and even the lunkheaded Rossovich in perfectly-cast roles. As for Martin, he's in top comedic form, but also wrote himself his most humane, multi-dimensional character. And Hannah has a wonderful, attractive passion so often missing from her other work -- she's obviously infused by the great material she's been given. All involved have created a sweet, inspired sleeper in 'Roxanne.' It may not be a true, inarguable modern classic, but it is certainly one of the finest romances to grace the screen in recent memory.
Sony presents 'Roxanne' in a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1). It's a nice, pleasant image, if a bit dated -- I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Sony has the same old master lying around they used for the DVD back in 2001.
'Roxanne' is crisply photographed, but hardly visually spectacular. The color palette is natural, if stable, with little really standing out. Fleshtones are accurate. Detail is fine, but the image is frequently soft and lacking in depth. The source has a few bits of dirt and a blemish or two, but it's generally clean with nice blacks. Contrast is a bit flat in the mid- and high-range, but it suits the realistic look of the film. Night scenes suffer from some dullness of shadow delineation. Edge enhancement is not an issue, thankfully, and it's a clean encode. A fine enough catalog release, but I wasn't blown away.
A new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit) has been mixed for 'Roxanne.' The film really doesn't benefit much from the high-def upgrade.
The movie's sound design is subtle at best. Surrounds are rarely active for any sort of discrete effect, save slight ambiance and a few nice, bouncy moments with pop songs. It's really about the dialogue, which sounds good and is balanced well. Dynamics are certainly more than fine for the material, with fairly wide stereo separation and supportive low bass. 'Roxanne' sounds as good as it needs to.
Sadly, there are no extras at all on 'Roxanne.' This seems like the kind of cult favorite that deserves at least a new commentary or retrospective featurette.
'Roxanne' is really a lovely, sweet picture. It's humane, funny, poignant and has something meaningful to say about love and romance. This Blu-ray doesn't shine as a bright as the film itself, with video and audio that are only fine enough. And there is a complete lack of extras. Pick this one up for the film, not a Blu-ray showpiece.