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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/21/99

Erin Brockovich
2000 (2000) - Jersey Films (Universal)

review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Erin Brockovich Film Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A/B+

Specs and Features

132 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch 1:11:45 in chapter 26), Amaray keep case packaging, Spotlight on Location: The Making of Erin Brockovich featurette, Erin Brockovich: A Look at a Real Life Experience (interview with the real Erin Brockovich), deleted scenes (17 scenes totaling 30 mins) with optional commentary by director Steven Soderbergh, cast and crew bios and filmographies, production notes, theatrical trailers (for Erin Brockovich, Out of Sight and Notting Hill), DVD-ROM features (weblinks), newsletter information, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (44 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English

When someone asks you, "Well, what can I do? I'm just one person...," first slap them in the head. Then, pop this disc into your player and make them sit down. Not only is Erin Brockovich a really well-made film, it's also the story of one woman with big problems of her own, who decided that some other people had even bigger problems and did what she could to help them out.

Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) is a single mother of three who can't catch a break. She can't seem to land a job, she gets a parking ticket, breaks a nail and is broad-sided by a speeding luxury vehicle when she clearly had the right of way. This is all in the first few minutes of the film. Imagine all the crap this chick has suffered through before we even join her story. In dealing with the accident claim, she meets Ed Masry (Albert Finney), an attorney who has much potential but is happy taking cases that he can handle. Little does he know, when he takes Erin's case, he's going to be forever entwined in her life. Masry looses the case, but Erin ends up joining his firm as a clerk and takes it upon herself to become a researcher/paralegal. While working, she discovers an odd real estate file with blood tests and soil samples in it. "What the hell?" she thinks to herself. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but Erin's no cat. So she dives deep into the how's and why's of the case... and discovers something so shocking and engrossing that you'll sit captivated by the film the whole way through.

Now... Erin Brockovich isn't a perfect film, and Julia Roberts isn't the best actress out there. But with Steven Soderbergh behind the camera, anything can be good. And Roberts is the perfect choice for playing Erin. She's not perfect looking in the sense that she and the real Erin are dead ringers for each other. Rather, they both have the same endearing spunk. You like Erin when she's telling you you're an idiot. Hell, you can't help but agree with her. She's absolutely right. She may have no couth or tact, but she's mostly right... and that's a really hard thing to convey on screen. We could have easily hated Erin here. She could have been seen as a bitch, slut and bad mother. But with Roberts in the role, you see Erin for what she really is in reality - something special. I mean, she has to be something special to do what she did, right? You may not yet know exactly what Erin did, and that's for the best. Just watch this film and enjoy - and I think you'll end up agreeing with me.

Soderbergh films usually make for great DVDs, and this is no exception. Although this disc isn't as heavy with Soderbergh's participation as Out of Sight, The Underneath or The Limey, it's still is a great presentation. The video is available in anamorphic widescreen, and Universal's done a nice job. The print is flawless and the transfer is wonderful. We get some gorgeous color work in this film and the disc represents it very well. All the natural light shots are full of detail, with beautiful texture. There are few moments of artifacting, and some edge enhancement in a few scenes, but it certainly won't distract from your viewing pleasure. The sound is also wonderful. It's done up in Dolby Digital 5.1 and comes across very naturally. The dialogue is centered up front and there's some interesting play in the rear channels, but usually only for the music. All in all, the track is nice and clear. It's quite enjoyable.

On the subject of extras, first off, I'd like to say this: I would have liked a feature-length commentary track. I've had this disc for a while, and I thought it had a commentary track. It does, in a way. There's something like 17 deleted scenes on this disc, totaling 30 minutes. Soderbergh does a commentary on these scenes, explaining why he cut what he cut, how painful it was to cut certain scenes and how much he enjoyed shooting some of them. As for the scenes themselves, pretty much all of them deserved to be in the film. But it would have made the movie almost three hours (actually, I think he says the original running time was 3 hours and 10 minutes - ugh), so he made the right decision. There's a few derivative scenes, and a storyline about Erin getting sick (either from the accident in the beginning of the film or from exposure to the chemicals she's fighting so hard against). It's nice to hear why they were cut. I like Soderbergh's work and the way he talks about it - he's never at a loss. His track on The Limey ranks as one of my favorites this year, and I would have loved to hear him on this disc during the whole film, maybe with the real Erin Brockovich and/or Julia Roberts. The absence of a full-length commentary is noticeable. It probably all came down to a scheduling problem, but it would have been a welcome addition. Also included on this DVD are trailers for this film, Out of Sight and Notting Hill, an interview with the real life Erin Brockovich (with a few bits of the real Ed Masry), a Spotlight on Location featurette, production notes, cast and crew info and a video promotion for the Jurassic Park DVDs. One last note - the DVD-ROM material amounts to a bunch of studio weblinks. Don't even bother with it.

One person can make a difference... and one person's struggle can make a great film. This disc isn't the greatest special edition, and I would have liked more. But what we get is fine, so I'll keep my yap shut. As a DVD of a recent, mainstream movie, this is a pretty good effort from Universal.

Todd Doogan
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