"Saving Grace" is a cute little "small-town" movie, similar (almost too much) to "Waking Ned Divine". Starring Craig Ferguson("The Drew Carey Show", "The Big Tease"), the film is a comedy, but the humor is hit-and-miss. It does have some things going for it - it is the first comedy about pot that isn't, well, dopey.
The "Grace" of the title is played by Brenda Blethyn (Secrets and Lies) as a woman loved by the small town she lives in. When she gets in major financial trouble (her late husband had some bad business deals), she is at a loss for what to do. Her assistant has a bit of a suggestion: grow marijuana. Lots and lots of it.
And since the townspeople like her so much, they don't notice when Grace turns on the growing lights at night so brightly that they light up the night sky like fireworks. The film at this point asks the audience to believe a little too much, and it keeps going as Grace goes to London to sell the stuff. I won't go on as to give away what happens for the film's final section, but it's a somewhat satisfying wrap-up.
It's not that I disliked "Saving Grace" completely; it's just that the film is noticably slow, which is saying something for a 90 minute movie. I laughed a couple of times, but for a comedy, there's a lot of space between the chuckles. The performances are pleasant and really do save the movie from going up in smoke(sorry, had to say it.) Ferguson is good here, but was a little better in "The Big Tease". Brenda Blethyn is good as always and gets a little better as the movie goes on. The supporting players are fine, as well. I enjoyed the fact that the film was able to create a cast of fully written characters in the span of the running time, but again, pace is a problem here.
And when the film did get slow, I simply sat back and watched the film's scenery, which is almost impossibly beautiful. "Saving Grace" is a cute little movie, nothing memorable, and good for a laugh or two.
VIDEO: Where there are many studios who do consistently strong work with a few slips here and there, I can't say I remember the last New Line title I wasn't pleased with in terms of picture quality. It helps that "Saving Grace" often offers some stunning scenery, which translates very well to this DVD. Sharpness, detail and clarity are all excellent, and there is often a nice depth to the image.
Colors are beautiful as well, with the deep, rich greens of the surrounding area coming through beautifully, and other colors look marvelous as well. I didn't really notice anything wrong with the picture quality throughout "Saving Grace". There are a few minor little speckles on the print used that pop up once or twice, but that's about it. There's no instances of shimmering or pixelation, and the picture almost looks richer than I remember it looking when I saw it at a benefit screening a couple of days before its actual release. Pan&Scan or 2.35:1 widescreen editions can be chosen from the main menu.
SOUND: "Saving Grace" does not present a very active sound experience, nor does it really need to with the material. The only time the movie really opens up beyond the dialogue is with the score, which sounds wonderfully clean and crisp. Still, the majority of the sound is rooted in the front. Surrounds come into play in subtle fashion occasionally, with either the score or slight ambient sounds. Dialogue is especially clear and easily heard. A fine presentation for the material.
MENUS:: After several menus that are incredibly active and well-animated, it comes as a little bit of a suprise to find a New Line title with a basic menu. It works fairly well for the film, though. Menus are non-animated, but easily navigated.
Commentaries: This is the "writer commentary", with writers Craig Ferguson and Mark Crowdy along with director Nigel Cole. It seems as if Ferguson was recorded separately, but they all do provide a fun, informative look at the movie. Ferguson is the most amusing, although unfortunately he doesn't participate as much as the other two. Crowdy and Cole talk about many aspects of the production, from how they came up with the story idea, to stories from the set to working with the actors. The commentary is a bit dry at times, and goes slow now and then, but as it goes on the main two participants become more energetic and overall, I found it to be an enjoyable listen. The track really doesn't have any pauses of silence.
The other commentary is from actress Brenda Blethyn, actor Craig Ferguson and director Nigel Cole. The commentary doesn't seem scene-specific, but I actually enjoyed listening to it quite a bit. Cole is pretty much the main participant, but the other two also have quite a bit to offer, talking about the subject matter and what it was like to work on the movie. Cole offers a very interesting story early on about how the film had to be released in Britain before America, and having the film go up against "Gladiator". There are a few more spaces of silence during this track, but I found it just as interesting to listen to as the first track, and at times, a little more fun.
Trailer: The film's funny theatrical trailer, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1.
Final Thoughts: Although I'm still not completely sold on "Saving Grace", New Line has again provided a wonderful DVD presentation, with fantastic image quality and a couple of entertaining and informative commentaries. Recommended for at least a rental.