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review added: 2/14/01

Sleepless in Seattle

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Sleepless in Seattle: Special Edition

Sleepless in Seattle
Special Edition - 1993 (1999) - Columbia TriStar

Film Rating: A

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

Specs and Features

105 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (by director/co-writer Nora Ephron and co-writer Delia Ephron), Love in the Movies featurette, music video for When I Fall in Love by Celine Dion and Clive Griffin, talent files, theatrical trailers (for Sleepless in Seattle, My Best Friend's Wedding, It Could Happen to You, Philadelphia and Nothing in Common), film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Chinese, Korean, and Thai, Closed Captioned

Sleepless in Seattle (original) Sleepless in Seattle
1993 (1997) - Columbia TriStar

Film Rating: A

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

Specs and Features

105 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, film-themed menu screens, scene access (49 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned

"It's like… magic."

Magic, love and fate are the working forces behind a little romantic comedy from 1993 called Sleepless in Seattle. Sam (Tom Hanks) is a single dad who just lost his wife Maggie (Carey Lowell in a touching cameo appearance) to cancer. He and his son Jonah (Ross Malinger) move to Seattle for a change of scenery, but find that the void in their lives left by Maggie is more painful than ever. On Christmas Eve, Jonah calls a national radio psychology show in hopes that the doc will help his Dad conquer his loneliness. Thousands of women across the country hear Sam's moving story of love and loss, and fall head over heels. One woman tuned in is Baltimore journalist Annie (Meg Ryan), who is about to marry the most boring, pathetic soul on the planet (Bill Pullman), and is having a hard time facing the fact that she's going to make a mistake. After much deliberation, Annie feels that hearing about Sam on the radio was fate giving her a sign, and she decides to track down Sam to find out if he is her destiny. Only time will tell if Sam and Annie are M.F.E.O. (Made For Each Other).

Sleepless in Seattle contains a perfect blend of romance and comedy. One genre does not overshadow the other. The film contains some amazingly funny low-key humor, mostly attributed to the darned-near perfect chemistry of the cast. Hanks is great as usual (two Oscars and counting), but the supporting players (including Rob Reiner, Rosie O'Donnell and Rita Wilson) shine brightly in this movie. What continually amazes me about Sleepless is how one film can be so successful with brilliant, memorable comedy (the weepy retelling of The Dirty Dozen, for example), and then immediately shift into touching, poignant emotion (Sam's vision of his deceased wife). While partly attributable to the wonderful script, after listening to the commentary, I discovered that some of the best moments of this film were improvised. This just proves that not enough good things can be said about this cast.

But that's just part of what makes Sleepless so special. There's something else at work here - something intangible. Magic, perhaps? Old-fashioned romantics will be attracted to this film for its starry-eyed storytelling and message of romantic destiny. Sure, there are contrivances here and there, but the charm of this film should allow the less cynical to really enjoy the beauty of this movie. I don't consider Sleepless a "chick flick." In fact, I don't believe in that label. Whether you're a guy or a gal, if you believe in the magic love can bring to life, Sleepless in Seattle is a film you don't want to miss.

Columbia TriStar originally released Sleepless in Seattle way back in mid-1997 as a standard movie-only edition. This version has been discontinued (although it's still available from some retailers) and replaced with a special edition that includes several extra features. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen picture on the special edition disc is pretty good, but has a few problems. The video quality is a bit on the soft side, and the overall picture seems darker than it should. There are also several hints of edge enhancement and compression artifacting. When compared to the standard edition, both discs look similar, however the special edition cleans up some of the grain and noise found on the previous disc. In addition to anamorphic widescreen, the special edition contains a full frame version on the second layer of the disc. In my humble opinion, it should have been left off to provide more bit space for the widescreen version and more extra features. The Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks on both versions sound identical. The audio is pleasant but fairly uneventful - not surprising given that the film is a romantic comedy. Dialog is easily understood, but the soundstage seems a bit limited.

The special edition of Sleepless would have been more accurately billed as a "second edition" or "new edition", because the features included are pretty limited in both quantity and quality. But what you will find starts with a 13-minute featurette called Love in the Movies. This is a fairly pointless look at what romance in the cinema means to different members of the cast and crew of the film. Yawn. A commentary track with director/co-writer Nora Ephron and her sister (and uncredited co-writer) Delia Ephron provides some good insight into the history of the film. The track mostly focuses on the development of the story, casting, acting methods and a few funny anecdotes. It's really the highlight of the extra features. A music video for When I Fall in Love by Celine Dion and Clive Griffin, along with talent files and a bevy of related theatrical trailers, round out the supplements. I really hoped for more. For example, in the commentary track, Nora Ephron mentions that there's a lot of improvised comedy that had to be cut from the film for length. So why is there no outtake reel here?

Sleepless in Seattle is a film I can't recommend enough, especially for you romantic types out there - you know who you are. It effectively blends light-hearted comedy with some poignant emotion, and the cast is ideal for the material. The audio/video quality of the special edition disc is passable (although the video is a bit better than the standard edition). And while the lack of more meaningful extras is disappointing, the commentary track is good enough to make the difference. Even if you already own the original standard edition disc, Columbia's attractive new MSRP of $19.95 makes it an easy candidate for repurchase.

Greg Suarez

Sleepless in Seattle: Special Edition

Sleepless in Seattle (original)

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