In these times of extreme financial insecurity and stress, what better time is there to put out a film that focuses on a feel good story proving that money doesn’t buy happiness, and that good things will happen to those who are willing to give of themselves to help others? ‘It Could Happen to You’ is just such a film, one which borrows it’s basic premise from an actual event, in which Yonkers policeman Robert Cunningham promised half of the earnings of a lottery ticket to Phyllis Penzo, a waitress at a local pizzeria, as a lark, and it turned up the winner of a $6 million jackpot. While the true story ends there, ‘It Could Happen to You’ takes the ball and runs with it, crafting a love story to overcome all odds out of this unique occurrence.
Charlie Lang (Nicolas Cage) is a kindhearted, selfless policeman from Queens, New York, whose marriage to his wife, Muriel (Rosie Perez), is at a bit of a rough spot. His “everyone else first” mentality isn’t a good mesh with her growing “me first” high-upkeep attitude. When Charlie is short on money to pay a tip to a hard on her luck cafe waitress, Yvonne (Bridget Fonda), he promises her half of any winnings from the lottery ticket he just purchased. Naturally, the ticket wins (anything else wouldn’t have made for a very good film). The splitting of the lottery money doesn’t sit well with Muriel, and the marital issues between her and Charlie escalate, while Yvonne and Charlie seem to have more in common than they ever imagined.
It is somewhat mandatory to leave one’s brain at the door going into this movie, more so than with most other sappy flicks of this ilk. The film is beyond predictable, due to some horrific writing that gives away every little twist long before it happens. When watching, if someone makes you think, “Man, she’s a bitch..” Guess what? She'll be a bigger one later! The same can be said with nearly every other adjective to describe a human attribute, as each character in the film is a one dimensional cardboard cut out, who are impossible to relate to, as they are embodiments of ideals, rather than actual people, you know, with both virtues and flaws.
The film, partially narrated by the late Isaac Hayes, and partially explained via the front pages of tabloids, dedicates itself to style over substance, and convenience over reality, especially late in the film, in one of the absolute worst courtroom sequences ever put on film. Logic does not dictate events, as we are force-fed what feelings we should have about the characters through their every word. Superman himself couldn’t be more perfect than Charlie, who falls a spandex costume short of being an every day superhero, while Muriel and Yvonne’s separated husband Eddie (Stanley Tucci) are painted as universally evil.
Basically, this film is an overly sweet fairy tale. It may have played better if there were actually a few bits of realism to humanize the characters. It's successful in forcing sympathy towards those who would rather have true love than money, and it may be a pleasing film for those who are looking for a sappy romantic story. Those looking for anything else may want to politely leave a buck or two on the table rather than fully indulge in this sugary sweet yarn.
‘It Could Happen to You’ debuts on Blu-ray with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that really shouldn't have pressed it’s luck, as few people will feel they struck the jackpot with this transfer.
The grain for the film is overpowering, wiping off any finer detail to be found in foregrounds and backgrounds alike. An early example of how bad it can get is the bathroom scene, where the shower curtain is almost dancing with activity, which was amazingly distracting. There is also a “healthy” smattering of noise, especially in whites, which at times had blue dots littering them. To add to the list of random, natural distractions, white and black dirt specks and scratches are fairly prevalent throughout the entire film.
Skin tones aren’t natural, as most shots seem to have a yellowish tint permeating any exposed epidermal surfaces. Black levels aren’t too strong, and the reds in the film, especially Fonda’s dress, looked over-saturated to the point of being borderline neon. There are also some issues with lighting, as exterior shots get flooded in a way that kills any detail that the grain and noise already hadn’t butchered, and even interior shots sometimes are affected, as the light seeps through windows and obscures anything around them.
And wait, there’s more! Artifacts pop up from time to time, and are “slap you in the face” obvious, especially during the Yankee Stadium sequences, when characters are in front of the tarped off areas of the outfield bleachers. Court shots are hazy, with very dull colors. I did notice a shot around the 30 minute mark (yes, a singular shot) that was clean and crisp, which is ironic, a singular shot out of an entire movie. Somewhat like lottery odds.
Presented with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, the film has a low key, no frills sound mix that is very front heavy. Surrounds are used for some very soft atmosphere and occasional notes in the score, though there is no other use for these speakers. The bass level has an equal presence, as a soft complement to a film that doesn’t need it. The score is underwhelming, easily overpowered by the dialogue in the film, which is somewhat sad, as the spoken word isn’t exactly powerful.
Most of the spoken word is clear, save for nearly any line given by Perez. The background noise at times can blend too much, creating an indistinguishable “noise for the sake of noise” feeling. I can’t say I found this track to be anything special. Honestly, it kind of sucks.
The DVD for ‘It Could Happen to You’ was very sparse, with a selection of extras that included trailers, the theatrical trailer for the film, and interactive menus!!! Funnily enough, this Blu-ray of the film has even less extra content going for it, as the trailer for the film itself has been removed.
I may be a tough grade when it comes to romantic comedies, but ‘It Could Happen to You’ isn’t a very solid film. The predictability of it is jarring, and the extreme caricatures that replace characters are impossible to associate with, other than to manipulate a viewer into rooting for Yvonne and against Muriel. The Blu-ray disc isn’t much better, as the soft but ugly video and average audio don’t exactly scream “you got your money’s worth.” Blind buying this title is a gamble, as the smart bet here is to save your dough for a disc with a higher payout.
All disc reviews at High-Def DVD Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.