A businessman shows up in Washington to lobby agendas that are friendly to his construction plans. His ditsy ex-showgirl bimbo proves to be an embarrassment in social situations, so he hires a reporter to teach her how to appear more intelligent. Soon it becomes apparent to the reporter that she isn't so stupid after all, and things become more complicated as she begins questioning the papers her sugar daddy keeps getting her to sign, and the reporter begins falling in love with her.
I've never seen the original 1950s film version of 'Born Yesterday,' but I have to assume that it's better than this 1993 remake. Why? Because it has to be. Stale and wholly unengaging, the movie has a few fleeting bright spots, but remains totally forgettable. With that said, much like some other recent Mill Creek releases ('Gone Fishin,' 'Duets') it does foster one very important question that nagged me throughout its entire running time: Why is this movie on Blu-ray? Don't get me wrong, I love that the medium offers a wide and eclectic assortment of beloved and not so beloved flicks spanning cinema's entire lifespan, but… the 1993 remake of 'Born Yesterday' starring Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson? Really? Since Mill Creek Entertainment acquired the not so enviable license to release the flick, I suppose they simply thought to themselves, "Hey, why not?" Well, it turns out I've actually got a few reasons why not.
When a domineering businessman, Harry (John Goodman), heads to Washington D.C. to close an important construction deal, he brings along his ditzy blonde girlfriend, Billie (Melanie Griffith). As the couple mingles with various politicians and intellectuals, Billie's bimbo behavior becomes a constant source of embarrassment. Hoping to refine her unsophisticated personality, Harry hires a journalist, Paul (Don Johnson), to educate her on current events and upper-class mores. Though she struggles at first, Billie starts to broaden her horizons and soon develops a thirst for knowledge -- a thirst which leads to some startling revelations about Harry's corrupt business dealings. Well, startling to Billie, at least. Did I mention that she's not the most observant girlfriend? As a romance blossoms between the reformed ditz and her teacher, it seems like Harry's plan might completely backfire on him.
In a seemingly misguided attempt at channeling Marilyn Monroe, Griffith's performance as the beautiful but naive Billie comes across as pretty damn annoying. Sure, she sells the character's clueless understanding of the world around her, but her airhead shtick isn't particularly funny, charming or interesting -- it's just irritating. There's some decent chemistry between the actress and Don Johnson (they were a real life couple at the time) but the romance mostly falls flat. Goodman's overbearing and misogynistic Harry is appropriately repellent, and there are a few scenes that reveal a gentler side, helping to keep the character from becoming totally one dimensional. With that said, the love triangle is really quite laughable and though the movie doesn't take itself too seriously, it still can't muster much entertainment value.
The scripting and direction are all totally by-the-numbers and suffer from certain tacky early 90s sensibilities that don't hold up well (the dated score is especially grating and a classic cheesy montage is entertaining for all the wrong reasons). Beneath the thin plot and old fashioned, fluffy comedy are some genuine attempts at deeper themes dealing with societal facades, hypocrisy, and the burden of intelligence -- but the breezy treatment of these ideas barely scratches the surface. That's understandable of course, since the film's goal is to be a light screwball comedy, but the shallow storytelling doesn't leave a lot to invest in. Beyond the harmless but ineffective humor, most of the runtime lacks any real drama. Dull and uneventful, the characters sort of drift through the motions, and any kind of momentum doesn't really form until the last few scenes. Even then, the conflict is resolved rather quickly and easily.
As asinine as the film's story and execution are, there are a few "cute" bits here and there. At one point, Johnson's character teaches Billie eight standard responses that can be used to answer just about any political question she might be asked, leading to a fairly amusing scene where she puts them to use. Likewise, a later sequence where Billie teaches a room full of politicians her mnemonic device for remembering the Bill of Rights is also fun. Unfortunately, these fleeting hints of creativity and wit are few and far between. In a way, the script is akin to a cinematic flat line, with only a few brief signs of life here and there that all lead to a whimpering climax.
'Born Yesterday' is a completely disposable and totally unmemorable piece of mediocre filmmaking. Another unnecessary catalogue release from Mill Creek that's destined to go straight to the bargain bin, this disc seems to exist for no other reason than to make perplexed consumers exclaim "That's on Blu-ray?!" every time they see it on a shelf. Even at its discount price, it's just not worth the time or money.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Mill Creek Entertainment brings 'Born Yesterday' to Blu-ray on a BD-25 disc that comes packaged in a keepcase. After some logos and warnings, the disc transitions to a standard menu. The packaging indicates that the release is region A compatible.
The movie is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Seemingly authentic and free of any notable technical issues, this is a nice transfer through and through.
The print is in very good condition with no major signs of damage. Moderate to light grain is visible throughout, adding a pleasingly filmic quality to the image. While certain shots veer toward a slightly hazy aesthetic (with deliberately diffuse lighting), the image still retains a nice sense of clarity with nicely resolved detail. Colors are natural if not slightly subdued, but certain hues do pop (a red dress, for instance). The picture can look a tad flat from time to time, but there are instances of solid depth. Contrast is nice and black levels are consistently deep. One scene, set in a museum, appears to exhibit some minor flickering, but I think this is actually a result of the location's lighting and not the transfer itself.
The movie's cinematography is nothing to get excited about, but the basic visuals suit the story well. With no real issues to speak of, Mill Creek appears to have done a very nice job here.
The audio is presented in an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track along with optional English subtitles. Front loaded and quite forgettable, the mix does what it needs to do but offers little else.
Dialogue is clean and easily heard throughout. The dated, rather annoying score features decent stereo separation and some faint bleeding to the rears. The soundstage itself is pretty anemic with little in the way of directionality or immersion. Some very soft echoes of ambiance hit the surrounds but there aren't any notable discrete or disperse effects. Fidelity is solid and dynamic range is decent, but the overall scope of the mix is small. Bass activity is never very noteworthy (but that's expected for a film of this type). Balance between all of the audio elements is handled well.
The track sounds just fine, but proves to be uneventful. Middling but perfectly serviceable, it gets the job done.
With this release, 'Born Yesterday' makes its way to Blu-ray, but honestly, I'm not really sure why. With its outdated sensibilities, the flick is even more forgettable now then it was when first released nearly twenty years ago. Sure, there a few charming bits here and there, but they just don't add up to anything worthwhile. On the plus side, the video transfer is actually quite respectable, and while underwhelming, the audio suits the material just fine. Fans (if there are any) are out of luck when it comes to supplements, as all we get is a standard definition trailer. Barebones and disposable, this is a bargain disc most will just want to skip.