Do I need to turn in my critic card at the door when I admit I had never seen Mystic Pizza? I never really had an urge to back when it was all the rage back in the late '80s. The film served as the launching vehicle for Julia Roberts (Eat Pray Love) and, to a much lesser degree, Matt Damon (Invictus), but it was nothing I really hunted out. Now that I've seen it I can say that I have, but just how good a feature was this?
Written by Amy Holden Jones Indecent Proposal) and directed by Donald Petrie (My Life in Ruins), the film follows three teenage girls in Connecticut. Roberts plays Daisy, sister to Kat (Annabeth Gish, Double Jeopardy) and friend to Jojo (Lili Taylor, Public Enemies). The girls live in seaside Connecticut and work at a pizza shop (want to guess the name of it?) and deal with their separate relationship issues. The film opens with Jojo about to be married to Bill (Vincent D'Onofrio, Men in Black), but faints at the altar and does not get married. Oddly enough, she wants to become more amorous with him despite his resistance in the subsequent weeks and months. Kat has feelings for a married man, despite her knowing that his wife will join him and his child shortly. Daisy develops a relationship with the oldest son in an upper-crust family and skeptically sees him for what he's for (an indirect betrayal to her belief structure), despite his intentions to the contrary.
What is surprising about Mystic Pizza is that for the good things I heard about the film, there is very little going on in the story past that. In fact, from a story perspective it's so unremarkable that you could slot any three actresses into the roles and it would probably work almost as well. But what separates it are the performances which, from these women at the time, were of surprising quality. I'd presume to think that Gish was the biggest name of the bunch (and her role, particularly in the second and third acts), but Taylor and Roberts add a layer of chemistry that seems genuine and believable. The character development for each is underwhelming and vanilla, but they manage to craft charismatic characters from Jones' script.
It's weird though, because as much as this is a film where the onus of the work is placed on the three actresses, they don't have a lot to push up the hill. Their character conflicts with each other and their respective love interests are predictable, yet their resolutions are inevitable. Their love interests are largely one-dimensional, and D'Onofrio, along with William Moses (who plays Gish husband crush) try to do something with their characters but don't pull off anything convincing.
All told, Mystic Pizza is a nice, harmless little piece of cinema. After two decades the only real novelty in seeing it for the first time is the appearances of Roberts, Taylor and Damon (who appears late in the film with two or three lines to his credit). It's nothing I would take behind the proverbial middle school to get pregnant, but hey, the bucket list is a little lighter now, so there's that.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Mystic Pizza is presented in an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 high-definition transfer that looks decent. There is not a lot of razor sharp multidimensional looks from the film, but blacks look good and skintones are reproduced accurately. The image detail is lacking a little bit, but that is more due to the production values for the film. I wasn't expecting a revelation when I viewed it but on Blu-ray the film looks good.
Oddly enough there is a DTS-HD Master Audio two channel lossless track for the film. It's not a surround track, though there's a Spanish surround track and a French mono one, so somewhere in there is something that sounds acceptable. In this case, the lossless track was OK, music sounded fine, dialogue was clear and consistent through the production, and the sound was in the front channels entirely (Note: I had a problem with the English track on my Oppo player and the international tracks sounded fine, though in using my PS3 as an alternate it worked smoothly).
The trailer and that's it.
Mystic Pizza is as harmless and unobtrusive a film that I have seen recently. The performances are OK, the story is bland, and you will forget about it almost immediately after you watch it. Touchstone cinema this is not. Technically it's just as nondescript and the one extra is obligatory, but if you've got the standard definition disc (and some of you might), there's no need to double-dip. For those who haven't seen it, give it a spin so if nothing else you have an advantage on your next Happy Hour Trivia content.