WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Did the career of Lawrence Kasdan start to go sour after he made the interesting failure I Love You to Death? Was it this film that shoved Kasdan down the career path that would take him to the bloated disaster that is Dreamcatcher? No, that's not really a fair assessment. Even after I Love You to Death, Kasdan came up with some gems, such as Grand Canyon and Mumford. Still, although Kasdan's clunky black comedy has its share of cult fans, there's no getting around the fact that it's a rather inert failure that marked a clear line of division between his brilliant early output (Body Heat, The Big Chill, Silverado) and his later, merely serviceable work.
Based on a true story, I Love You to Death starts out with some wicked pizzazz. We meet Joey and Rosalie Boca (Kevin Kline and Tracey Ullman) at the pizza parlor they own. The tone of the opening sequence is raucous and engaging, but soon the plot veers into strange darkness. Finally opening her eyes to the many adulterous dalliances of her Italian husband, Rosalie is enraged and decides to kill Joey. With the help of her mother (a marvelous Joan Plowright), she begins a series of plans to take his life, but as the plans go awry, she finds Joey more and more difficult to murder. Soon, she enlists the help of Devo (River Phoenix), who also fails, so he hires two drugged buffoons (William Hurt and Keanu Reeves as Harlan and Marlin) to finish the job. And still, Joey proves indestructible...
Considering all the elements—the story and casting and the dark, dark humor—it seems as thought the film ought to coalesce into a thing of great comic power. But despite the intentions of all involved, I Love You to Death never takes off. Perhaps the humor doesn't match Kasdan's choice of a slow, deliberate pace. Which is too bad, because taken individually, the performers are excellent. Ullman is fabulous, particularly in her scenes of hurt rage, and Hurt and Reeves make a humorous and unlikely pair. And Kline is a lot of fun as the man who keeps coming back.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
Columbia Tri-Star presents I Love You to Death in a satisfying anamorphic-widescreen transfer of the film's original 1.85:1 theatrical presentation. Detail is quite respectable, reaching into backgrounds, and colors seem accurate, if a bit flat. I thought Joey's bright red shirt could have looked a bit more garish. As usual with films from this era (this movie is going on 15 years old), the image suffers from some slight graininess and lack of depth. On the plus side, I noticed practically no edge halos, and the halos I did notice were very minor. This is also a surprisingly clean print.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The disc's Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track is pretty good. Dialog seems clear, with intact fidelity, but the front soundstage is relatively static. The best component of the film is James Horner's lively score, which (except for minor ambient noise) is the only aspect of the sound presentation to find its way to the rear channels.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
All you get are Theatrical Trailers for Manhattan Murder Mystery, Murder by Death, and So I Married an Axe Murderer. See a theme there?
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
I Love You to Death is worthy of a rental. Some of its black humor is on target, but most of the film is frustrating because it just...doesn't...quite...come...together. The video and audio are respectable, but the lack of supplements is disappointing.