As warm and invitingly familiar as a freshly baked loaf of crusty Italian sourdough, Norman Jewison's classic Moonstruck is a film easily rewatched again and again – a sweet-natured romantic comedy salted liberally with pathos and screwball antics, it's a flavorful work that ranks among some of the best rom-coms ever turned out by the Hollywood studio machine. Cher rightly won an Oscar for her spirited portrayal of the feisty Loretta Castorini, whose clashes with the wooden-handed, opera fan Ronny Cammareri (given goofy life by a live-wire Nicolas Cage) form the foundation of this rich, rewarding film.
Working from an original, Oscar-winning screenplay by playwright John Patrick Shanley, Moonstruck deftly juggles multiple storylines, giving short shrift to none and providing a wealth of moments for the impressive ensemble cast to shine – Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia excel as Loretta's combative parents, Rose and Cosmo and Danny Aiello shines as Ronny's brother and Loretta's fiance Johnny. Loretta, a nebbishy bookkeeper whose experiences with marriage have been less than successful, is ready to try matrimony again – while she doesn't love Johnny Cammareri deeply, she wants to "do it right," making sure this marriage gets off to a good start. When she unexpectedly falls for Johnny's estranged brother Ronny, her seemingly straightforward nuptials become somewhat complicated, entangling Loretta and her heart in a scenario she could've never predicted.
Much of Moonstruck's charm lies in the way it quietly plays against expectations, revealing poignant truths beneath all the frenetic drama and operatic characters – content to let his characters breathe and not spout lame cliches, Jewison likewise grounds his film in the earthy locations provided by New York City's vibrant Little Italy. You can practically smell the bread baking, the marinara sauce simmering and the fresh autumn air outside the Metropolitan Opera House – Moonstruck is as much a love letter to New York City as it is a subtly magical tale about what happens when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie ... The DVD
Que bella – Moonstruck's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks mostly solid; the image suffers from a noticeable shudder in the opening minutes, but it decreases greatly as the film goes on. Aside from that defect, this is a pretty sharp, blemish-free visual representation. The Audio:
Sadly, those great Dean Martin tunes sound flat and lifeless on this unremarkable Dolby Digital 5.1 track – by attempting to space out the mono mix, Sony has drained any sense of life from the soundtrack; dialogue is very low and I had to turn the volume up frequently throughout the film. Despite the volume variations and overall thinness, Moonstruck gets the job done aurally. English, French and Spanish subtitles are also included. The Extras:
Feel free to pitch the first DVD (fullscreen only - blecch!) release of Moonstruck: the Jewison/Shanley/Cher commentary from the initial release is included here, along with a few new featurettes and, in a nifty touch, included recipe cards for spadini Romana, bucatini all'Amatriciana and lamb de Elvino. The 25 minute, 28 second featurette "Moonstruck: At The Heart of an Italian Family" goes behind the scenes while the six minute, 24 second "Music of Moonstruck" explores precisely that. In keeping with the food focus, the batch of featurettes I would most certainly advise against watching right before dinner are under the heading "Pastas To Pastries: The Art of FIne Italian Food." After a brief (one minute, 40 seconds) introduction by host Mark DeCarlo, you're able to watch six separate segments on restaurants in New York's Little Italy: Grotta Azzurra (18 minutes, 47 seconds); Italian Food Center (two minutes, 31 seconds); Ferrara Pastries (two minutes, 28 seconds); Piemonte Ravioli Co. (two minutes, seven seconds); a gelato stand (one minute, two seconds) and Florio's Restaurant (one minute, 24 seconds). Final Thoughts:
Moonstruck fans should pony up for this re-release – it retains the filmmaker commentary, while beefing up the supplements somewhat. However, having this modern classic in its proper aspect ratio with a serviceable anamorphic transfer is more than enough reason to check this disc out pronto. Avanti!.