Like its lead, 'Beaches' is full of over-the-top ridiculousness. It ratchets up the drama like a bad Nicholas Sparks novel. It's full of overacting, while the entire movie overcompensates on drama rather than treating the friendship at the center of the movie genuinely. I've never understood why 'Beaches' is considered, by some, to be a classic. It's a heavy helping of tripe that is made all the more hard to swallow with Bette Midler eating up every scene.
Garry Marshall directs this sappy drama focusing on two childhood pen pals. The story is based on a novel by Iris Rainer. CC Bloom (Bette Midler) meets Hillary (Barbara Hershey) by happenstance when they're children. CC comes from nothing, but she's determined to become a famous actress. Hillary hails from the upper crust of society. Normally the two of them would never interact. However, after their meeting they hit it off and become life-long pen pals. Perhaps nowadays their relationship would've been less personal, as they probably would've used Facebook to keep in touch. Such were the days of snail mail.
The two of them write letters back and forth. CC opines about her miserable acting career, and Hillary laments the lifestyle that comes from living in a rich family. Like so many movies and TV shows, 'Beaches' boils down to the essential odd couple formula. Throw two unlikely friends together and see what happens. Just to be safe though, we'll stir in a dash of terminal illness.
When they finally meet again as adults, Hillary moves in with CC and they start their friendship where they left off. Through flashbacks we get to see how their relationship blossomed, its rough patches, and where it ended up going. Like so many romantic dramas before it, 'Beaches' tells the story of two close individuals who fight sometimes and then make up.
Two hours is simply far too long to sit through scene after scene of Midler's overacting. 'Beaches' drags on and on with its predictable formula. We all know what's going to happen and how it's going to happen, it just takes ages to get there.
All of the romantic clichés are followed and checked off. The first act features a budding relationship where the two wear rose-colored glasses as far as the other is concerned. In the second act the couple is faced with each other's shortcomings, fights break out, and rifts are manufactured. Finally, in the third act love triumphs, tears are shed, and promises are made.
'Beaches' is a cloying heart-tugger that wants nothing more than to beat the tears out of you with everything it's got. It might not have been so bad if Midler had calmed down a bit and the movie wasn't so damn formulaic.
Even after all these year, 'Beaches' remains one of the most overrated romantic dramas out there. Make no mistake, even though CC and Hillary aren't involved with each other romantically, this is a romantic movie in every sense of the genre.
When the end finally comes (two very long hours later) you may feel bludgeoned by the movie's incessant ploys to try and elicit sniffles and tears. Its intentions are far too obvious and in the end they just don't work.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Beaches' is a Touchstone/Disney release. The film has been pressed onto a 50GB Blu-ray Disc. It's contained in a standard size Blu-ray keepcase. It's region free.
There's never a point in this Blu-ray release of 'Beaches' where you'll be impressed by the 1080p transfer of the film. Yes, Disney has a long, illustrious list of stellar Blu-ray transfers, but this isn't one of them.
Right off the bat the movie shows its age. The opening is actually really ugly. As the camera takes in the sights of the Hollywood Bowl, as CC rehearses, grain appears frozen in place in the sky. There isn't a lifelike or cinematic movement to it. Instead the grain sits there, statically, as the camera pans. It's actually pretty jarring. The grain structure is all over the place during this movie. It never settles down either. Noise crawls over the image, especially on skin. It's so inconsistent that it's hard to chalk it all up to cinematic grain. There's something else going on here.
The rest of the movie doesn't fare much better. Softness dominates the visuals here. Every scene looks as if it was filmed through gauze. Light bleeds through edges, making them less distinct. Colors appear faded. Detail is never jaw-dropping or even impressive. There are times where Midler's outrageous hair looks "good" in close-ups, but most of the time we're faced with a soft picture that is light on details. Hershey's hair, more often than not, appears flat and matted. It lacks definition and gives off that ugly looking flat sheen. Shadows are only so-so. Blacks aren't nearly inky enough.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does redeem the poor video performance some, but not much. Beside the syncing issue at the beginning with young CC talking to young Hillary under the bleachers (it's entirely possible this scene has always been badly synced, I just can't remember; it's been a long time since I last saw it), the movie fares pretty well in the audio department.
Dialogue, of which there is a ton thanks to Midler's motor-mouth, is crisp and delivered clearly through the center channel. Directionality works nicely too as voices are placed in the front channels depending on where they are on screen. Pans are smooth enough.
The real question is how do the numerous song-and-dance numbers sound (objectively I mean). While the rear channels could be more involved, Midler's singing (if you're a fan) fills the soundfield nicely. It isn't the booming clarity that you'd get from a dedicated concert Blu-ray, but it will be sufficient for most.
It's sappy and cloying. Sure movies like 'Beaches' have their place, that place just isn't in my collection. Watching this movie is like trolling the dregs of Nicholas Sparks. It's just so obvious and cliché ridden that it's beyond me why people refer to it as a classic. Just because the movie's most famous song has lived on doesn't mean the movie itself is anything of importance. The video is downright frustrating, while the audio is decent. This release is for fans only.