(1987) *** Pg
102 min. MGM. Director: Norman Jewison. Cast: Cher, Nicolas Cage, Vincent Gardenia, Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello.

/content/films/3995/1.jpgJohn Patrick Shanley gives good speech. The playwright of Italian American Reconciliation, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea and Doubt and screenwriter of Five Corners and Joe Versus the Volcano knows how to build up a head of dramaturgical steam, and his Oscar-winning 1987 screenplay for Moonstruck found game speechifiers in Cher and Nicolas Cage. The romantic comedy wears its off-balance as a badge of pride, as evidenced by a passionate rant given to Cage: "Love don't make things nice—it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die. The storybooks are bullshit."

Love's messiness certainly informs Moonstruck. As Loretta Castorini (Cher) learns the hard way, love doesn't arrive on a timetable or at our convenience. Feeling every one of her thirty-seven years, Loretta acquiesces to marry her amiable but dull boyfriend, Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello). In answer to her mother Rose (Olympia Dukakis), Loretta confesses that she doesn't love Johnny. "Good," Rose replies. "When you love them, they drive you crazy because they know they can." Complications arise when Johnny, before flying off to his mother's deathbed in Palermo, makes Loretta promise to visit his estranged brother Ronny and get him to agree to come to the wedding. Baker Ronny turns out to be a fiery fellow with only one hand, the other having been lost to a bread slicer: blaming Johnny, Ronny has wallowed in isolation (and tragic opera) ever since. Sparks fly, of course, and before long Ronny and Loretta share a bed and a date to see La Bohème.

Though it suffers from a cutesy streak, Moonstruck sidesteps the usual romantic comedy hijinks, and takes a winning interest in the ethnic character and distinctive personalities of Little Italy. Both Cher and Dukakis collected Oscar gold for their wry performances (the latter probably sealed her win with her delivery of the line "Old man, you give those dogs another piece of my food and I'm gonna kick you 'til you're dead!"), Cage gives one of his trademark offbeat performances, and strong support comes from Aiello, Vincent Gardenia as Loretta's philandering father Cosmo, and John Mahoney as a young-womanizing professor suprised to find himself entranced by Rose. Part of what sets Moonstruck apart from the pack is its willingness not only to indulge romantic fantasy (the lunatic influence of the moon) but to acknowledge our drive to stay ahead of the Grim Reaper (Cosmo cheats "because he fears death"). As confidently directed by Norman Jewison, Moonstruck adds a bit of flavor to an often bland genre.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 2/15/2011

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

MGM gives Moonstruck a solid if less than stellar upgrade to Blu-ray in a special edition retaining the extras from the 2006 Deluxe Edition DVD release. The image retains a natural, filmic look, with true color and palpable grain. Detail gets a bump up, contrast is accurate, and digital artifacts are kept to a minimum: on the whole, it's a good presentation of a film that has never looked razor sharp. Still, the softness, stray dirt, and unrefined shadow detail suggests this may be a somewhat dated hi-def transfer that could yet see some improvement. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix recreates effectively maximizes the original elements with effective use of rear channels to wrap around ambient effects and music.

An audio commentary by director Norman Jewison, Cher, and writer John Patrick Shanley gives a stitched-together overview of the participants' memories and feelings regarded the film and its reception.

"Moonstruck: At the Heart of an Italian Family" (25:29, SD) gathers Jewison, Shanley, Cher, Olympia Dukakis, Julie Bovasso, John Mahoney, Vincent Gardenia, Danny Aiello, Nicolas Cage, production designer Philip Rosenberg, and married couples Tom and Susan Conte, Steve and Angela Dolcemaschio, Fred and Rose Donato, John and Toni Deliso, and John and Emily Deliso to discuss making the film and its representation of Italian life and love.

In the six segments of "Pasta to Pastries: The Art of Fine Italian Food" (30:07, SD), host Mark DeCarlo takes us on a tour of New York City's Italian restaurants, as represented by Chef Elvin Molina, Italian Food Center owner George Mastra, Ferrara Pastries owner Ernest Lepone, Piemonte Ravioli manager Elizabeth Amaro, gelato server “Moufid,” Florio’s Restaurant owner Lawrence Amoruso, and Florio’s chef Joseph Prete.

"The Music of Moonstruck" (6:24, SD) includes comments from Shanley, Jewison, Aiello, Rosenberg and composer Dick Hyman.

Lastly, a "Theatrical Trailer" is included.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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