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Savant Short Review:


Paramount Home Video
1991 / Color / 1:37 / 97m. /
Starring Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Robert Downey Jr., Cathy Moriarty, Elisabeth Shue, Teri Hatcher, Whoopi Goldberg, Garry Marshall, Kathy Najimy
Cinematography Ueli Steiger
Production Designer Eugenio Zanetti
Film Editors Daniel Craven, Garth Craven
Original Music Alan Silvestri
Writing credits Robert Harling and Andrew Bergman
Produced by Alan Greisman, Herbert Ross, Aaron Spelling
Directed by Michael Hoffman

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

This farce centered on soap opera romantic hijinks is a lot of people's favorite comedy. It certainly has an interesting cast, and a number of good laughs, but Savant found it to be sort of a mismatch of talented people and promising material, and unrestrained direction. This new Paramount DVD makes it look far better than ever before.


The Sun also Sets is a venerable afternoon soap that stars the cantankerous & aging Celeste Talbert (Sally Field). Besides being in a constant state of hysterics over her advancing age (42), she's a neurotic mess who goes on regular Mall runs with her writer and only friend Rosie Schwartz (Whoopie Goldberg) to 'accidentally' run into adoring and ego-boosting fans. Although Celeste's just won another Best Actress award, she's convinced that everyone on the show's against her. They are. Ariel Maloney (Teri Hatcher) is a costar who just wants her to retire, but sexpot Montana Moorhead (Cathy Moriarty), 'Nurse Nan' on the show, goes in league with punk producer David Seton Barnes (Robert Downey Jr.) to hatch plans to deep-six Celeste's career. These involve pulling back a character axed from the show twenty years before, Jeffrey Anderson (Kevin Kline) who's now a loser playing dinner theater. And although even the casting director (Carrie Fisher) who hires her doesn't know it, Celeste's niece Lori (Elisabeth Shue) is crashing the show by playing a 'homeless person' extra.

Cleverly turned out to appeal to soap fans, or the theater-queen style of soap fan who goes nuts for th the wacky characters and ridiculous plot turns, Soapdish fails to find any kind of a comedic or dramatic baseline, but is a great parody. Naturally the cast and crew of The Sun also Rises are a company of nitwits who'll turn the plot and logic inside out for ratings, and doublecross their own mothers to improve their parts. The aggressive Montana strings David along with promises of sex; David plays psychological games to manipulate his stars; and the casting director auditions potential sex partners privately in her office, to see if they can play buff and tanned 'homeless people.'

The picture has a very interesting cast that goes for broke and often finds a funny vein here and there, but there's just not enough reason to like these people (even farcical characters have to be loveable) and too much of the comedy borders on desperation. That said, nothing is totally witless, and the whole affair is in good taste, which is more than can be said for the mainstream comedies we're suffering through now.

Sally Field and Kevin Kline are excellent as the ex-lovers thrown together, creating ego-fireworks in the process. She's impossibly selfcentered and vain, and he's vain and pompous, and they almost give us a reason to love them ... it's that desperation factor that gets in the way. Kline's acting MO is to play straight man, so he seems to be ducking the moments. Field gives every comedy confrontation her all, and comes off as a bit too much, grimacing like Paul Lynde and popping from one emotional extreme to another like a yo-yo. They're very good, but not a good match.

The same with the rest of the cast, all of whom find good individual grooves, but don't create comedy relationships we remember. In his better days, Robert Downey Jr. is quiet and conniving - but has a manic side. Whoopi Goldberg actually achieves some character integrity as the writer - but she has a manic side too. Cathy Moriarty, a great unused actress, is ONLY a manic side and comes off as abrasive and ugly. She ends up the butt of a cruel joke that the story didn't need. It's hard to be told to love our comedy leads when the comedy villains are so abused by the script. Elisabeth Shue is lively but is constrained by the plot, as is her homeless, mute, stabbing-attacker character Angelique in the show.

Paramount's DVD of Soapdish is a nice widescreen 16:9 image that spreads out the fun, and brightens up the colors, that clogged up pretty terribly on VHS. The bouncy score is also happier on DVD. A welcome extra for the fans of this picture (there are a lot of them) is a jokey original featurette. Hysterical, manic and consistently over-the-top, Soapdish is a good comedy on DVD.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Soapdish rates:
Movie: Good
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: none
Packaging: Amaray case
Reviewed: December 9, 2001

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