Back when he was still climbing the rungs towards the A-list status he currently enjoys, Johnny Depp starred alongside Marlon Brando and Fay Dunaway in the easily forgotten romantic dramedy 'Don Juan DeMarco.' In it, he played a character who believes himself the suave, silver-tongued lover of legend, the greatest the world has ever seen, living in contemporary New York. After what appeared to be a suicide attempt by police, he is hospitalized for evaluation by Brando, playing the psychiatrist who is ten days away from retirement and has apparently lost his lust for life. The two strike a deal in which Depp must convince Brando, as well as us, that he is the 17th Century libertine and proceeds by telling his life's story.
If, by this point, you can already imagine how this will all play out, then you've pretty much predicted the entire movie. And it could very well be better than what we is actually seen on screen. The script by Jeremy Leven, who also made his directorial debut, but is probably better known for adapting 'The Notebook' and 'The Legend of Bagger Vance,' isn't about pulling any surprises or some clever twists, which will leave some unsatisfied at story's end. The story has potential to be more than what is seen between the two men, but it doesn't dare search deeper than Depp's recounting of fantasy tales. Events and plot points also occur out of foreseeable convenience rather than a product of the setting.
Still, if predictability is the worst 'Don Juan' has to offer for ninety minutes, then surely it can't be a complete waste. Well, forgiving the lack of a reasonably rewarding conclusion, then yes, it does impart some entertainment value, particularly in the humor department. Several good laughs are to be had and arise from cleverly designed situations — sadly, none of which feature scenes with Brando and Dunaway together. The movie's comedic aspect is all related to Depp and the wild, romantic stories he shares as supposed flashbacks. Much of this, however, is hampered by Leven's workmanlike and rather stale direction.
What ultimately makes the film work is Depp's performance as a young man who wholeheartedly believes is the eponymous character. At first, the thought of the ultra-debonair stud living in the 20th Century sounds laughable and ridiculous, but Depp pulls it off convincingly and with aplomb. Whether he's romancing a woman dining alone or being fawned over by nurses in the psychiatric hospital — this is where the funny stuff happens, by the way — he's believable, because Depp possesses a natural charm and allure that translates well to the screen. And his character expresses that to others in the story. Seeing him in such portrayals almost makes later disasters like 'The Tourist' forgivable. Almost, but not quite.
At the end of the day, 'Don Juan DeMarco' offers some amusement and several good laughs, especially scenes where Depp is the main focal point. The plot teases with some mystery behind the young man's delusional state, but it ultimately goes nowhere or simply fails to make clear how any of it is related. Brando and Dunaway don't do much of interest with their respective roles, which only gives Depp the opportunity to shine all the more while salvaging whatever is left of this mostly forgettable romantic dramedy. That's not an entirely bad thing, however, as he does deliver a great performance, demonstrating why he's earned and deserves his A-list status today.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
New Line Cinema and Warner Home Video bring 'Don Juan DeMarco' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD25 disc inside a blue amaray keepcase. At startup, the disc goes straight to a horribly-ugly generic main menu selection with still.
'Don Juan' tries to sweep us off our feet on Blu-ray with some mostly average moves that can be persuasive at times, but it ultimately lack genuine class and ii in need of some freshening up.
Presented in a 1.78:1 window, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode has its moments with bold, nicely-rendered primaries and attractive secondary hues. In these same scenes, definition and resolution are quite striking, with detailed clarity of Spanish costumes, distinct individual hairs and revealing, fine lines on the faces of actors. Sadly, the transfer is noticeably fickle, showing several sequences of blurriness, and only a few of them can be excused as the result of the soft-focus photography. Contrast, for the most part, is stable but not impressive, and there are instances of highlights coming off much stronger than normal. Black levels are on the same boat, sometimes deep and rich, other times dull and a tad faded. Shadow delineation is pretty good. The video is awash with a thin grain structure, which tends to thicken in few spots, almost looking a touch noisy around the edges.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack doesn't stray too far, but it does offer a slightly better presentation overall. It's a mostly front-heavy mix, but it does rather nicely in creating a wide imaging with a great deal of presence and fidelity. Much of this is thanks to the score and the song which serves as a recurring motif. The soundstage appears fluid and lively with well-balanced channel separation and excellent, intelligible vocals, overlooking a few of Mr. Brando's garbled lines. The mid-range is clean with strong clarity detail in the music, but low bass is rather anemic, not that we'd expect a whole lot from a romantic dramedy. Rear activity can be surprising at times with some impressive discrete effects which enhance the soundfield nicely, but they're far and few in between.
'Don Juan' hits on Blu-ray with a mediocre and depressing collection of special features.
Jeremy Leven wrote and directed 'Don Juan DeMarco,' a mostly forgotten romantic dramedy with Marlon Brando, Faye Dunaway, and Johnny Depp. Despite being predictable elements, the movie does come with some amusing aspects and showcases an great early performance from Depp. The Blu-ray also comes with fairly decent video and a better audio presentation, but supplements are very disappointing, making this a rental at best.