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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/16/01

1990 (2001) - Orion (MGM)

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs


Film Rating: B

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

Specs and Features

110 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (16 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 2.0) and Spanish (DD mono), subtitles: Spanish and French, Closed Captioned

Mermaids falls into the same fold as other, more recent films like Tumbleweeds and Anywhere But Here. It's the story of a torrid relationship between a flirtatious, mother who refuses to settle down, and her teenage daughters, who are trying their best to deal with their mom's inability to commit to anything. The mother and daughters this go-around are Rachel Flax (Cher), Charlotte (Winona Ryder) and Kate (a very young Christina Ricci). The story takes place in 1963. At the start of the film, Mrs. Flax is leaving town because of a souring relationship with a married man. As is her tradition, she picks a new place to live by blindly dropping a finger on a map of the country. Their next destination is somewhere in New England.

When they arrive, Mrs. Flax soon meets up with a charming, smooth talking shoes salesman named Lou (Bob Hoskins), who has no problem accepting Mrs. Flax and her kids as a package deal. Things get a little tougher for the Flaxes, when Rachel starts to flirt with a quiet, handsome caretaker that Charlotte has her eyes on. He's a few years older than Charlotte, and in her eyes, he's much too young for her mother. The longer they stay in New England, the more unsure Rachel becomes of her romantic fling with Lou. To make matters worse, her daughters become increasingly attached to Lou as they spend more time with him. As the film builds toward its resolution, it gets a little messy and too cute for its own good. But, as a whole, it works.

What truly keeps Mermaids afloat are the performances. Everyone here is great, particularly Winona Ryder and Cher. They play off of each other very well and are convincing as a mother and daughter. Individually, they are both competent actors, but their time together on screen is dynamic and overcomes some of the conventions of the script. Newcomer (at the time) Christina Ricci is also good as younger sister Kate, but her character is never fully explored until the film's climax. Mermaids is a good movie that has its heart in the right place, and is very knowledgeable about the nature of mother/daughter relationships. On top of all that, if you're looking to finish the Cher slap-you-up-if-you-talk-back-to-me trilogy (behind Mask and Moonstruck), then Mermaids is an absolute must.

On DVD, we're given a decent looking anamorphic widescreen picture. Colors are solid and exhibit little bleed, and flesh tones are natural and even. Contrast is adequate, and there is little in the way of compression artifacting or edge enhancement. There is some age-related grain that makes the picture look dated, but it's never exceedingly heavy. Black detail is a little lacking, which produces a picture that looks a messy in darker evening scenes. The audio is an adequate 2.0 surround mix that makes use of the rear speakers only sparingly. Dialogue is mixed lower than the other portions of the audio, so I often had to crank up the volume higher than normal to hear what was being said. This, in turn, made the rest of the soundtrack unnecessarily loud. Audio is also available in 2.0 surround French and Spanish mono.

The only extra on board this barren disc is the theatrical trailer. At least MGM has taken the extra step of making it anamorphic. But it's just awful. This thing is the biggest hunk of cheese this side of Kraft. There are no production notes, no commentary track... nothing. I would have liked a little more information as to why Lasse Halstrom (supposedly, the film's original director) bailed on the project. The consolation here is that MGM has lowered the price of this disc to reflect its lack of... well, anything really.

Mermaids is a good movie that deserves a better disc. Certainly, this isn't as bad a disc as MGM's awful Escape from New York, but if you're looking for anything besides a basic presentation of the film, you're SOL. Unless you're a die hard fan of the film, this disc's only worth a rental at best.

Dan Kelly
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