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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Love Actually
Love Actually
Universal // R // April 27, 2004
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 19, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Movie:


An assault of the warm and fuzzys, Richard Curtis's "Love Actually" still works despite its occasional overdose of sappiness and sentimentality thanks to the writer/director's sharp sense of humor that can be found in many of the lines of dialogue. Curtis's directorial debut manages to focus on what seems to be a dozen storylines, yet keeps things moving fairly well. If there's a storyline that doesn't particularly catch one's attention, there's always another character or two mere moments away.

The pairings include British Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) and assistant Natalie (former U.K. soap star Martine McCutcheon); Daniel (Liam Neeson) and the mom of his son's friend; Karen (Emma Thomspon) and Harry (Alan Rickman); usan (Laura Linney), and a younger co-worker, Carl (Rodrigo Santoro); another couple (Keira Knightley and Chiwetel Ejiofor) and finally, a lonely writer (Colin Firth) and his Portuguese maid. Rowan Atkinson and Bill Nighy (as an aging rocker) offer comedic relief.

There are great moments scattered throughout this picture. Nighy's cynical rocker has some terrific honest, sharp humor. I very much enjoyed the storyline regarding Grant's prime minister, as I've really begun to think that Grant has moved on entirely from his stammering persona and become a comedic actor with skillful timing. There's a very funny bit about a 20-something Brit who's unsuccessful with romance there, so he decides that he'll try his luck in the US (more specifically, Wisconsin) instead. On the dramatic side of things, Liam Neeson does an excellent job portraying a man dealing with loss and trying to help his son cope.

On the other hand, a few of the storylines don't work, mostly because the characters aren't developed well enough. I wasn't too intrested in Susan (Linney)'s subplot, but Alan Rickman has some very funny moments playing her boss, who keeps trying to motivate her to tell who she loves how she feels. Some other characters (Knightley's, for example) are also a tad underwritten. With all of the subplots and characters both major and minor, Curtis should certainly have been a bit more brutal in the editing room. It's a romantic comedy, after all, and the stories that were working better than others should have gotten the focus. The film - pleasant as it may be, it's not a particularly deep exploration of love or human relationships - also could certainly have stood to have lost about 15-20 minutes. Streamlining the picture could really have helped out the pace, as "Love Actually" is actually somewhat slow going at times.

Although I'm certainly not the biggest fan of the romantic comedy genre, every year has a few highlights. Although its idea to bill itself as "The Ultimate Romantic Comedy" is rather absurd, it's still a satisfactory mixture of comedy and a little bit of drama. The performances are generally quite good, although some suffer from lack of character development.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Love Actually" is presented by Universal in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality isn't without a few faults, but otherwise, this is another in a recent line ("The Rundown", a few others) of very good recent efforts from the studio. Sharpness and detail are a little off in a few low-light sequences, but mostly, the picture appeared crisp and quite well-defined.

The picture does show a little bit of grain and some mild edge enhancement at times, but no noticable compression artifacts were spotted. Compression artfacts weren't noticed though, nor were any defects or marks on the print used. The film's naturalistic color palette appeared well-rendered, with no smearing or any other concerns.

SOUND: "Love Actually" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's audio is pretty decent for a comedy. There's little in the way of surround use throughout the film, but the film's song/score is unexpectedly full and dynamic-sounding, with a nice spread across the front speakers. Dialogue also remained clean and clear.

EXTRAS: A commentary is included with writer/director Richard Curtis, actor Bill Nighy, actor Hugh Grant and Thomas Sangston. The commentary, recorded as some of the actors were watching for the first time, is really quite funny. Curtis offers some interesting details about the making of the film, such as shooting on location, working with the actors and creating the characters. Grant's task is to try and lighten up the proceedings, cracking some remarkably funny jokes and offering some stories about working on-set. There's a great little bit where the participants wonder about the details behind clearing a joke about Britney Spears.

Elsewhere, Richard Curtis offers introductions to deleted scenes in a 37-minute piece, where he explains that the original cut of the picture was 3-1/2 hours long. Curtis also talks about some of the music choices in the film in a brief featurette. Previews for other Universal titles are included, as is a Kelly Clarkson music video.

Final Thoughts: "Love Actually" is cute, funny and touching. Still, the film's one big problem remains its lack of focus. Had it cut some characters and subplots, it could have been an even more enjoyable flick. Universal's DVD edition provides fine audio/video quality and a few good supplements. Recommended.
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