"Neither of them knew what was going on / A strange feeling of never /
Heartbeats becoming synchronized and staying that way forever."
THIS SPACE FOR RENT- Ben Folds, by way of Nick Hornby
Romantic comedies are a tricky thing, especially for guys. Life's unofficial rule book clearly states that they're usually lame, predictable and only for girls, often catering to base female instincts in the same way action movies cater to males. There are exceptions, of course: I'll freely admit that a number of rom-coms can not only be considered "guilty pleasures", but excellent movies in their own right. Classics like When Harry Met Sally are at the top of the list, presenting an even-handed balance that works perfectly. Others like Peter Chelsom's Serendipity (2001) don't fare quite as well...but they're perfectly watchable, even on (gasp!) repeat viewings. What can I say? Rules were made to be broken.
The short version of Serendipity is that destiny is real and unavoidable. Our story revolves around Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale), who meet one snowy evening in New York while shopping for Christmas presents. Their natural chemistry is undeniable, even though they're already involved with other people, so the two share a pleasant evening in the city. Abruptly, the spontaneous Kate decides to let destiny run its course: she writes his number on a five-dollar bill and spends it immediately, deciding that their relationship will continue only if she finds the money later. She also writes her name and number inside a used copy of Love in the Time of Cholera and sells it to a random bookstore in the city...and if John can find it, the same rule applies. Happy accidents ensue.
At first glance, Serendipity's plot can definitely be a little eye-rolling, yet the continuous near-misses and chance encounters play out more naturally than one might think. The film maintains its belief in destiny with playful conviction; this is a good thing, since an overly-serious tone or full-on comedic approach just wouldn't work. A number of smaller elements kind of stick out though, mostly in the form of caricatured supporting characters. From the standard "guy's best friend and confidant" (Jeremy Piven) to the female equivalent (Molly Shannon), as well as an overly zealous store clerk (Eugene Levy) and a ridiculously corny boyfriend (John Corbett), the minor characters of our story just scream "generic romantic comedy". Even so, the film's brisk pace, excellent soundtrack and seasonal backdrops help to cover up some of these problems. Overall, it's about as passable as rom-coms get these days.
Serendipity makes its Blu-Ray debut courtesy of Lionsgate, who updates the 10 year-old (!) film with a basic but serviceable high-def upgrade. Though we don't get any new bonus features here, the technical boost makes for a more enjoyable experience during this beautifully-shot diversion.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the 1080p transfer of Serendipity is a winner. This is a very attractively-shot picture, from the crisp autumn landscapes to the snowy bookend scenes. Skin tones are natural, a pleasing layer of film grain is present (though some DNR can be spotted) and black levels are rock-solid. The original DVD was a good effort for its time, so it's good to know that this Blu-Ray offers a nice upgrade. Simply put, it's a faithful presentation of a surprisingly good-looking rom-com.
Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is surprisingly effective, even though it doesn't get as much time to show off. Dialogue is clean and crisp, the frequent musical cues are exceptionally strong and a modest amount of rear channel activity can be heard along the way. Optional English and Spanish subtitles, as well as English SDH captions, have been provided during the main feature only.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
This release comes in an eco-friendly keepcase and includes no slipcovers or inserts. Cover art replicates the DVD release, boosting the background color and swapping out a few fonts. Menus are easy to navigate, but they're prefaced by a number of individually skippable trailers and advertisements. The 91-minute film has been divided into just over 12 chapters and no layer change was detected.
Not much of substance here, but at least everything from the DVD has returned. These recycled extras include a feature-length (and rather dry) Audio Commentary
with director Peter Chelsom, a clip-heavy Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
produced for the Starz movie channel, a text-based Production Diary
, a handful of Deleted Scenes
with optional director commentary, a series of Storyboard Comparisons
and the film's Theatrical Trailer
. Unfortunately, all video-based bonus features are presented in 1.33:1 standard definition (even the trailer!) and do not include optional subtitles or Closed Captions.
Serendipity isn't a flawless romantic comedy by any stretch, but it's an entertaining diversion tailor-made for holiday viewing. Our strong leads anchor the paint-by-numbers plot quite well, while the constant coincidences aren't nearly as cheesy as one might expect. Lionsgate's Blu-Ray package is a standard port of the passable 2001 DVD release, pairing a strong technical presentation with an assortment of fluffy extras. This definitely isn't a required upgrade, but the low-priced Serendipity is a solid catalogue re-release that fans should enjoy. Recommended, especially for new audiences.
NOTE: The above captures were obtained from the DVD edition and do not represent Blu-Ray's native resolution.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two in his spare time. He also enjoys slacking off, telling lame jokes and writing stuff in third person.