There are a few films that, given the right circumstances, I will drop everything and watch when they air. Roxanne is one of those. I remember hearing the story about when Steve Martin pitched the idea of modernizing Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac play, the Columbia executive who was hosting the meeting started quoting the play verbatim shortly before giving his approval to the film. However through the years, I've avoided watching this at all costs, simply because any time it airs, some of the dialogue has been dubbed for profanity, but most other times it's because the pan and scan TV version makes me nauseated. I can't take it. Thankfully on Blu-ray, it felt good to go down memory lane with this.
Martin adapted the play that Fred Schepsi (Six Degrees of Separation) directs, and Martin takes on the 20th century Cyrano, but does it as C.D. Bales, a small skiing town's fire department chief who has a nose (and a half) for fighting fires. He meets Roxanne (Daryl Hannah, Kill Bill), who is visiting the town for the summer to research a possible astrological discovery. C.D. falls for Roxanne, not only for her beauty, which is obvious, but for her intellect. He feels comfortable around her, and after what can only be assumed as a lifetime getting teased and mocked, it feels right being around her. Things get complicated when Chris (Rick Rossovich, Top Gun comes to town to join the fire department. He's attractive and muscular yet oddly enough, is unable to muster words when talking to women. With C.D.'s help, he manages to land Roxanne, but the scam can't last forever, can it?
Not many films can boast witty dialogue with a romantic story that appeals to both kids and adults, but Roxanne does just that. It's a holistic and pleasurable cinematic experience that could even be passed from generations. I learned words like "eloquent," I learned how to express myself to a girl. I also was reminded of how Martin has managed to quietly refine his craft through the years. From his days singing "King Tut" with an arrow through his forehead, he manages to give you both some Chaplin-esque slapstick and some cleverly scripted sequences and dialogue that remind many of his standup act.
And with all of this, it doesn't bother to cater or dumb down its material to reach a wider audience. It doesn't have to because the material is that good and executed well. Consider that at the beginning of the disc, there's a trailer for Martin's sequel to his Pink Panther film. It's sad to see him to comedy that is painful and unintelligent. He effectively is nuking the Peter Sellers character from orbit. For all of the malice and ill will that he's implementing as Clouseau, as a Cyrano circa 1987, he's given the world a character (and a film) that is well worth the time.
The Blu-ray Disc:
It's great that Roxanne arrives in widescreen. I've never seen the standard definition DVD and don't know if it's even anamorphic or not. So when I see a 2.35:1 AVC MPEG-4 encoded version of a film I've always liked, I do have a certain jones for how nice it is. The British Columbia exteriors look good, there's some slight multidimensional look to the backgrounds, but they lack in detail. In one shot when C.D. and Roxanne walk up to an observation point, there appears to be some haloing around Martin. While it's not a spectacular presentation, it's designed to better serve the backdrop, and with that said, I was marginally impressed by the high definition Roxanne.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track is fine, though when it comes to rear surround activity, you get support when the Kenny G-like score pumps through the system. Dialogue sounds a little serviceable in the center channel, but does waver occasionally in the second and third acts, so some volume adjustment is in order. Subwoofer engagement is naught and directional effects are virtually nil. This is hardly immersive or effective; everything happens up front and doesn't really go anywhere.
Roxanne is well-thought of and talked about now, more than two decades after it was released. Would it kill you to put an extra or two on this beloved catalog title? A director's commentary, a retrospective (or old on-set) featurette, a trailer? Get with the frakking program man. Kthnxbye.
Roxanne is funny, romantic, sentimental, and above all else a worthwhile cinematic journey. With performances that possess enough heart and humor, they help you enjoy the adaptation as well as seek out and appreciate the original inspiration. Technically it's not a huge stunner, and from an extras perspective it's a whole bunch of fail. Honestly if you like the film, it's worth picking up, as I've got a hunch there isn't a special edition in anyone's future. And if you've never seen it, it's a must-watch.