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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 8/30/02

1991 (2001) - Paramount

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Soapdish Film Rating: B

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

Specs and Features
96 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case package, behind-the-scenes featurette, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu, scene access (15 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

"Even for an actor, you're an EGOMANIAC!"

Sally Field has won two Oscars, for Norma Rae and Places In The Heart, and she's proven herself time and again as a dramatic actress, even recently appearing as a schizophrenic on ER (and she won an Emmy for it). But to me, I think she's sold short as a comedic actress. She's got great comic timing, and can always over-react like it's nobody's business. So I've always been happy with the studio head that thought Sally would do a good job in Soapdish, a farce that takes place behind the scenes of a popular soap opera.

Sally plays Celeste Talbert, the star of "The Sun Also Sets," a soap opera that's been around since the beginning of time and that's struggling in the ratings. On the night she wins her up-teenth Emmy, America's sweetheart discovers that her live-in boyfriend has moved out and broke up with her on the answering machine. It starts a chain of events that forces Celeste to re-examine her life, and she doesn't like what she sees.

So in swoops David Barns (Robert Downey Jr.) and Montana Moorehead (Cathy Moriarty), the show's young producer and villainous actress. They see Celeste's mid-life crisis as an opportunity to bump her off the show, thus making Montana the star, and they set-up a story line where she kills a homeless deaf mute while working in a soup kitchen to turn America against her. Only they don't know that the actress cast, as the homeless girl is Celeste's niece, Laurie (Elizabeth Shue), and Celeste convinces the network head to make her a lead.

Frustrated but determined, David and Montana hire Jeffery Anderson (Kevin Kline) to join the cast. Jeffery was a cast member back when Celeste joined the show, and they were a couple both on and off-screen. But after their off-screen romance fizzled, Celeste had him written off the show.

Will Celeste finally flip out when she sees Jeffery again? Why is Jeffery trying to go out with Laurie? Will David and Montana succeed? Find out in: SOAPDISH!

One obvious problem with the film is that it is just not very believable at all. There are times that the plot-twists-on-top-of-plot twists seem more than contrived. Then again, this is a farce, the broadest type of comedy there is, and is probably intended that way.

However, one of the major strengths of Soapdish is its direction by Michael Hoffman. He allows the cast, which also includes Whoopi Goldberg, to be as hammy and crazy as possible, but acts as a wrangler to harness the craziness and use it towards furthering the story. There is a lot that jammed into the film's relatively short running time, and it moves along briskly with nothing wasted.

Paramount does yet another solid transfer with this disc. The colors are accurate; the black level is nice and deep. I didn't notice any compression problems, but I did see a good amount of grain, which is noticeable against white portions of the image. There was also a fair amount of noticeable edge enhancement. Audio-wise, I actually preferred the 2.0 mix over the 5.1 mix. The 5.1 mix had a number of directional effects that sounded really forced and unnatural, and the rear channels are almost only used for the score. I was also unhappy with the lack of bass in the sound mix, especially after hearing the not exactly aggressive Dirty Rotten Scoundrels track.

Extras are pretty slim. A trailer and behind-the-scenes featurette are provided. Both are very grainy and full-screen. And both are poorly produced, by the way. The behind-the-scenes featurette clocks in less than five minutes, and is basically your standard EPK material.

Soapdish is just an entertaining comedy that is well cast, and at times, reaches pure brilliance. Overall, it falls a little short of that goal, but is a great rent nonetheless.

Graham Greenlee
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