Four Weddings and a Funeral
is one of my favorite comedies, but until now it's been saddled with
a lackluster transfer. Finally, the release of the "Deluxe
Edition" sets things right, giving us a remastered, anamorphic
widescreen transfer, a vastly improved Dolby 5.1 soundtrack, and some
interesting special features.
The movie review below is the same
as my earlier review of the film; skip ahead to the DVD section if
you want to read about what's different in this release.
nobody who plays the "slightly confused but good-hearted and
boyishly charming" character quite so well as Hugh Grant, and
while I think he's been reprising that basic role too often for the
welfare of his career, in Four Weddings and a Funeral he's
clearly at the top of his game. Paired up with Andie MacDowell and a
plethora of excellent British supporting actors, Grant shines in this
completely charming romantic comedy, which actually lives up to its
description (as so few romantic comedies really do) by delivering
both a compelling romance and a healthy dose of hilarity.
Weddings and a Funeral is a clever as well as a very fun (and
funny) movie, starting from the fact that its structure is genuinely
based on the get-togethers of the title. Except for a few short
scenes, all of the story action in the film takes place on the actual
days of each of the weddings and the funeral. You'd think that would
limit the development of the characters or the story, but it doesn't:
in fact, it makes the film more effective, as we get to know the
characters by seeing how they react both publicly and privately to
the various stresses and possibilities of a large social event. The
episodic structure also perfectly complements the basic plot of the
film, which is the "two ships passing in the night"
relationship between Charlie (Hugh Grant) and Carrie (Andie
way of describing Four Weddings and a Funeral might be that it
takes a bunch of excellent British actors, tosses them together, and
stirs vigorously. (The supporting cast includes Kristin Scott Thomas,
John Hannah, Simon Callow, Rowan Atkinson, James Fleet, and David
Haig.) While the central storyline focuses on Charles and Carrie, the
side stories of the other friends and their attempts at finding love
and/or marriage are captured very well and add another layer of
enjoyment to the film.
Carrie in a fairly calm and reserved manner with relatively little by
way of outright comedy, which allows her to be in some ways a foil
for Grant's inspired blend of panic and charm. As I mentioned at the
beginning of the review, Hugh Grant is in fine form here, possibly
because he doesn't overplay the character of Charles; he strikes just
the right notes here. (Kudos also have to go to the scriptwriters for
some brilliant use of profanity, which is impossible to appreciate
out of context but is completely hilarious in the film.)
unexpected events at the finale of the film work as well as they do
precisely because we do care about the happiness of these characters.
Further, the film has been honest and above-board with us about the
flaws and foibles of the characters, and has never given the sense of
manipulating events to place obstacles in the way of the characters;
they have plenty of problems and missed opportunities, but these seem
to arise naturally from the circumstances of the characters' lives.
As a result, there's a sense that the film truly is character-driven,
that there's no deus ex machina that will descend from the heavens to
make sure that all misunderstandings are resolved and that a happy
ending is guaranteed. That's really the brilliance of having the
funeral, a section of the story that is unabashedly sorrowful, as
part of the film: with comedy and tragedy both having their place in
the film, who's to say whether the ending might not be bittersweet?
Doing a side-by-side comparison of
the 2000 release with this new 2006 transfer makes it very clear that
the Deluxe Edition delivers a significantly better viewing
experience. To begin with, the film finally gets an anamorphic
treatment, and the original widescreen version (1.85:1) no longer has
to share disc space with a pan-and-scan version. Hurrah! That's not
the end of it, though. The transfer has also been significantly
cleaned up. While there are still flaws in the image, they're almost
entirely reserved for those shots with the credits or other text
superimposed on the screen... and even then, the image is cleaner
than the 2000 version. In the main body of the film, the print is
much cleaner, with no noticeable flaws and a distinctly cleaner, more
pleasant appearance. Some of the shots feel like they aren't as crisp
as they could be, such as the middle-distance shots at the weddings
that have a lot of faces in the frame, but overall it looks fine.
Another positive note is that the edge enhancement, which was a
distracting element at times in the earlier transfer, is hardly in
evidence at all here.
The brand-new Dolby 5.1 soundtrack
is a vast improvement over the alternately flat-sounding and
harsh-sounding Dolby 2.0 track that the earlier release suffered
from. The new track is clean and crisp, with a nice depth and texture
to it, and a pleasant, full feel to the music. Dubbed French 5.1 and
Spanish 2.0 tracks are also provided, as are English, French, and
In addition to a much better
transfer, we also get a nice set of special features in this Deluxe
Edition, starting with an interesting audio commentary from writer
Richard Curtis, producer Duncan Kenworthy, and director Mike Newell.
The mix of the three filmmakers works out very well, as they discuss
with each other some of the interesting incidents and decisions
involved with the making of the film, and the energy level of the
commentary track stays strong.
A set of deleted scenes is another
very interesting special feature. We're treated to five different
deleted scenes, each of which has an optional introduction from
producer Duncan Kenworthy, commenting on the scene and why it wasn't
included in the final cut.
Several featurettes are also
included. The most substantial is a 30-minute making-of piece called
"The Wedding Planners," which is reasonably interesting.
"Four Weddings and a Funeral: In the Making" runs
only seven minutes and is really a promotional piece. "Two
Actors and a Director" is short (5 minutes) but interesting,
taking a look at the casting decisions for the film. Filling out the
special features section is a photo gallery, television promotional
segments, and a theatrical trailer.
I can finally give a "highly
recommended" for this truly funny film, now that it has a
transfer that does it justice. If you already have this delightful
romantic comedy in your collection, I'd say that it's worth making an
upgrade: the improved image and sound really make the viewing
experience much more enjoyable. And if you haven't picked up Four
Weddings and a Funeral, now's a great moment to do so. The Deluxe
Edition is "highly recommended."