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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Grass Harp
The Grass Harp
New Line // PG // April 19, 2005
List Price: $19.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted July 17, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

I was surprised to find that The Grass Harp was actually released theatrically; it has the undefinable but usually tell-tale stamp of "made-for-TV movie" all over it. It's not terrible, and may have an additional appeal for some viewers in that it is an adaptation of a Truman Capote novel, but all in all The Grass Harp has a lightweight feel to it. You may like it, but I doubt you'll remember it for long after the end credits have rolled.

The Grass Harp is the story of a boy named Colin Fenwick who is sent to live with his father's cousins, the stern Verena (Sissy Spacek) and the gentle Dolly (Piper Laurie). The actual story involves various adventures and emotional moments that add up to a coming-of-age story for Colin and character development for the various other figures involved in his life. It's a character-centered piece with a period backdrop, and it certainly boasts an all-star cast, with Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, and Roddy McDowell having roles as well.

I'd say that the main flaw of The Grass Harp is that it has "characters" rather than characters: that all the actors in the film are clearly playing roles, rather than bringing fictional people to life. All the characters feel one-dimensional, with even their changes of heart or character development coming across as scripted and predictable. Nor is the overall effect improved by the bland, stilted voiceover that occasionally narrates the protagonist's recollections. The period setting looks good visually, but when it's combined with the rather forced acting, it feels like a dress-up drama. Let's all get together and make a 1930s movie! It'll be fun!

From what I've written so far, it sounds like The Grass Harp is a lousy movie. That's not really the case, though; it's just that it's a sufficiently bland movie that it's easier to pick up on its faults than find anything that stands out enough to praise. I'm also not a big fan of anything that can be labeled "heartwarming," as I tend to be allergic to excessive sentimentality. The Grass Harp at least doesn't overdo it on that count, as it does present its story with sweetness but not sappiness. I would say (and I mean this in a good way) that if you enjoy things like the Little House on the Prairie television series, you'll probably find The Grass Harp to be to your liking.

The DVD

Video

The Grass Harp appears in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and is anamorphically enhanced. The image quality is a notch above average, with good colors and a generally pleasing appearance. There's some grain and edge enhancement in the image, though, and it has a consistently rather soft appearance.

Audio

I think the best word to describe the audio options for The Grass Harp is "overkill." I'm a big fan of DTS sound, but it's wasted here; the dialogue-centered track sounds uninvolving, and neither the DTS nor the Dolby 5.1 surround tracks do much to help that. A Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is also included. There's nothing wrong with any of the soundtracks; it's just that they don't have anything particularly engaging about them. English and Spanish subtitles are included.

Extras

The only special features are a theatrical trailer for the film and a trailer for other New Line releases.

Final thoughts

A fairly run-of-the-mill "coming of age" story, The Grass Harp offers a list of well-known actors, a script that's based on a Truman Capote novel, and not a whole lot else. It's not badly done, though the rather forced performances are the weakest note here, and is a passable piece of fluff if you're interested in either the cast or the Capote novel. Rent it.

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