(Original Film Review From '99)
"Primary Colors" simply happened to come out at a time when audiences didn't really care to hear more about a presidential scandal; we'd already been going through it on the news - we didn't want to sit through 2 more hours of it at the movies. The picture is an entertaining one, and although it got good reviews, it didn't do terribly well at the box office.
John Travolta stars as Jack Stanton(read:Bill Clinton), a presidential hopeful who has to deal with sex scandals as well as the relative inexperience of the staff around him. Travolta does almost a 100% dead-on impersonation of Clinton, right down to the speech and physical mannerisms. What he begins to miss is Clinton's almost constant strategy; he looks as if he's always planning the next move. Emma Thompson is excellent as Susan Stanton(read:Hillary Clinton), a woman who knows that her husband is doing things behind her back, but still stands by her husband through thick and thin. Also great is newcomer Adrian Lester as the main character, a young presidential aide.
The comedy is a little more broad than "Wag The Dog", but "Primary Colors" does still offer some touching, hilarious and dramatic moments. Although I did not like director Mike Nichol's "The Birdcage", I liked the dialogue in "Primary Colors" and I think the team of Nichols and writer Elaine May did a very good job adapting the novel. Performances are great, especially Travolta, Thompson and Kathy Bates.
VIDEO: An early Universal transfer, and it still remains a great one. Same as the Dolby Digital version, this effort offers images that are consistently sharp and smooth, never lacking in clarity. Detail is also quite pleasing throughout. Colors are wonderful, too. Although this isn't a movie where colors are bold and forward, there are some nice touches that look very enjoyable, such as the neon at a doughnut shop in one sequence. Colors are nicely saturated and show no problems. Flesh tones are fine, as well and black level is strong.
There's really nothing to distract from the image; some very light trace amounts of pixelation are apparent a couple of times, but these are hardly noticable. The entire presentation creates a smooth, "film-like" image that is extremely pleasing to view. Another example of how Universal, with few exceptions, got things right even from early on. Cinematography on "Primary Colors" is done by ace Michael Ballhaus, who also worked on films like "Goodfellas" and "Quiz Show". He creates some very good looking compositions within the 2.35:1 frame for the film.
SOUND: Definitely not an agressive film at all, the DTS edition still provides a nice presentation for the film's audio. "Primary Colors" is, as to be expected, a film that mainly just offers dialogue as the focus of the sound. There really isn't that much surround use, but there are other pieces of the audio whole that do take center stage, such as the score by Ry Cooder and Carly Simon, which sounds dynamic and clear on this release. The DTS edition may improve upon the Dolby Digital version with subtle detail and a warmer overall sound, but the improvements are pretty minor in this case. Dialogue is clear, but not terribly well integrated.
MENUS:: As with most early DTS titles from Universal, menu options and graphics are very minimal, only offering a couple of images from the film as well as a couple of options.
EXTRAS:: As with most of the Universal DTS titles that were put out early, there are no extras offered here.
Final Thoughts: If you liked "Primary Colors", the DTS version is, slightly, the better presentation. Since the Dolby Digital version doesn't really offer anything much in the way of extras, this is still probably the better choice.