'Straight Talk' is one of the most paint-by-numbers, by the books, routine romantic comedies I've ever seen. It's predictable from start to finish, hitting all the cliches along the way in its hour and a half runtime. With nothing risque to be found, aside from some piss and vinegar dialogue and the allusion of a sex scene (by way of clothes being thrown, rather than showing, you know, any state of disrobe), the film doesn't have anything different from a number of made-for-tv movies. Yet, for some strange reason, 'Straight Talk' works. It's a fun, smarmy little Dolly Parton vehicle, that has one fully realized character, a pile of cardboard cutouts, a ridiculous plot, and an even more ridiculous, nonsensical ending. I shouldn't like it, but I do.
Damn you, Dolly!
Shirlee Kenyon (Parton), a small town girl, gets tired of her small time life and moves to the big city... Chicago, to be precise. But her luck doesn't change much, as she can't find a job, and is running out of dough faster than she is prospects. By sheer dumb luck and a case of mistaken identity, Kenyon stumbles into a radio psychology gig, and the shoe fits, for the girl who has a knack for helping people. Now, an investigative reporter (James Woods) is out to reveal the truth about "Dr. Shirlee," a gal who's a "loma" short of a legitimate diploma, if he doesn't fall in love with her first.
I know, I know. As soon as I'm done writing this review, I'm turning in my man card. I really don't care, though. It's funny, really, due to the way that, supposedly, the ads for the film advertised it by showing how men enjoyed the film, that it wasn't just women that had a good time watching 'Straight Talk.' It's the damned truth. When you're not busy staring at Parton's curvy physique, there's a fun character behind it, with some great one liners, as well as a personality that's hard to dislike. Yeah, it would have been great to have a male lead, other than Michael Madsen, show up and give guys someone to relate to, as every other dude in the film comes off as somewhat whimpering and lacking in the backbone department, but Parton still carries enough of the film to keep it entertaining and bubbly.
Every inch of this film screams "Nate, you won't like this!" and it's hard to not notice, at times, the over-the-top meet cute, or the way the two story arcs converge, in the most coincidental hookup of all time. It's even tougher to ignore the straightforward, no frills direction that makes the film seem like it was made for an audience of zero. The soundtrack? Hey, if you're a Parton fan, you may love the fact that every song is sung by the diva, but if you're not a big country guy or gal, you may find it to be an odd mesh with the big city feel of the film, the fish out of water comedy aspect. The character does everything to hide her past, so the constant country twang in the soundtrack is just odd, as it fits the Flat River location, not Chicago. Also, the less I talk about the whole "virginity" scene, the better, as it has some of the most awkward writing I've seen in some time.
Still, for everything going wrong in the film, it's hard to not like Kenyon, the "tell it like it is" truthful helper who is the antithesis of radio psychiatry. We see the rags to riches story come to fruition, with a character with a strong moral compass who doesn't stray from her path and her ideals as she hits the big time, rather than hitting the "she forgot where she came from and who she is" theme that can just kill a movie. Parton is great as the sassy big mouthed girl who has to stick her foot in her mouth on more than a few occasions, and that's the selling point of the film, the small time girl with the big time smarmy mouth, showcasing scene after scene like it's her coming out party.
The Disc: Vital Stats
'Straight Talk' comes to Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment, instead of Touchstone/Disney, as one of the many titles bought out and rushed to disc. Currently slated for an early May release, numerous Target stores released the disc, alongside a varying amount of other Mill Creek titles, early, unceremoniously, for four to five bucks, with no signage or stickers indicating an exclusivity window. Please keep in mind that the DVD release is still going for over twenty bucks new on Amazon, so this is a bargain, indeed!
The disc itself is a Region A BD25, with no pre-menu content. The full motion, audio looped menu has two selections, a play button and a chapter search. That's it. There is a typo on the packaging, but head on over to the audio section of this review to see if it's one to be happy or angry about. Lastly, it has to be noted that the DVD release of 'Straight Talk' was a 1.33:1 pan and scan disc, and this is the first time on home video the film is available in its more natural window. Amazon's Blu-ray listing on this release is incorrect in this regard.
The 1080p, AVC MPEG-4 encode, in the 1.78:1 frame (from 1.85:1), for 'Straight Talk' isn't all that bad for a cheap dump release. Sure, I had to shake my head at the amount of dirt splatters early in the film, but they decreased as the film rolled on, to the point where they were hardly a distraction.
The picture isn't all that sharp, for a number of scenes, but there are some nice moments where detail shines through nice and clear. Skin tones, yes they're random, but never overly hot or pale to the point of being a distraction. Picture depth is random, though edges are consistently clean. I would have been happy if black levels were a bit more stable, or if grain would be more even throughout the film, but for a budget title, 'Straight Talk' blows away many of its peers. It sure as sin clobbers those Echo Bridge dumps.
The packaging for 'Straight Talk' indicates the film has a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, but that is incorrect, as a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is the default (and only) way to hear the film.
The film can be a tad bit tinny, but it's never awkwardly so, and for a cheap, somewhat sloppy title, I was surprised at the separation on display throughout. There's even some nice bass in the soundtrack to give a tiny oomph to some scenes. Dynamics can be questionable, but prioritization is never an issue, as not a single word gets lost in the shuffle, not even under the car horn sequence. There isn't all that much range on display, or really much of anything, but this track is far from a disaster.
Going by the star ratings, it may be one of the weaker 2-1/2 star scores you'll see here, but this disc does not deserve a lower score.
Here's the straight scoop: no extras.
'Straight Talk' is a predictable, somewhat ridiculous romantic comedy that, in the wrong hands, would have been a disaster. However, solely due to Dolly Parton, the film has a charm and charisma to it that cannot be underestimated. It's a fun little romp, one that scores a few good laughs along the way. Mill Creek's Blu-ray release of the film isn't top notch, but for a cheap as can be budget title, it's pretty good. Keep that in mind. You can't expect five star quality from a rushed-to-store-shelves-five-buck disc. This title is worth the asking price, and then some, but it does take an open mind. Gimme some straight talk, and hold the sugar please!