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A controversial newspaper columnist writes a story about a woman who has left a string of fiances at the altar, with unexpected results.
For more about Runaway Bride and the Runaway Bride Blu-ray release, see Runaway Bride Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on April 30, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Joan Cusack, Hector Elizondo, Rita Wilson, Christopher Meloni
Director: Garry Marshall
» See full cast & crew
Runaway Bride Blu-ray Review
The One That Got Away
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, April 30, 2013
It took nine years after the success of Pretty Woman to reunite stars Julia Roberts and Richard Gere with each other and director Garry Marshall, but their reunion was inevitable. Pretty Woman made a star of Roberts, revived Gere's flagging career and gave Marshall his first blockbuster success as a feature director. They all owed each other another turn. No one had managed to concoct a credible sequel to the trio's 1990 smash, which is hardly surprising given that the romance at its core existed inside a fairytale bubble and couldn't be transplanted anywhere else. (As Gere's Edward Lewis rightly observed, it was an "impossible" relationship.) So Gere and Roberts simply took on the characters of another star-crossed couple separated by a seemingly unbridgeable gulf that would, of course, be successfully bridged at the end of two hours. The script for Runaway Bride had been bouncing around for years, with a succession of stars and directors attached. It required only minor nips and tucks (some of which Marshall discusses in his commentary) to suit its stars and their director. At the time of the film's release, Gere said in an interview that he and Roberts had glanced surreptitiously at each other during the first reading and nodded, as if to say, "Yeah, we get this." The movie-going public felt the same way. So eager were fans to see the two stars reunite that the film did over $300 million in business worldwide—not as much as Pretty Woman, but a solid hit for studio partners Paramount and Touchstone. Still, Runaway Bride has never attained the iconic status of its predecessor, in large part because it is so obviously about showcasing stars, whereas Pretty Woman was about telling a story—and in the process, a star just happened to be born. As artificial and imaginary as its world may be, Pretty Woman seems to evolve naturally from its own internal logic. In Runaway Bride, you're always aware of the directorial hand working the gears of romantic comedy toward the inevitable result, while ensuring that the stars look fabulous.
Maggie Carpenter (Roberts) lives in the small town of Hale, Maryland, where she helps her father, Walter (Paul Dooley), run the local hardware store. Locally, Maggie is famous for having left several men standing at the altar. The exact number and their identities are plot points best left for the first-time viewer to discover. Ike Graham is a New York newspaper columnist, whose feisty and frequently misogynist commentary sparks controversy, not the least from his editor, Ellie (Rita Wilson), who also happens to be his ex-wife. Like most writers, Ike is a born procrastinator. Sitting in his favorite bar with a deadline looming for his next column and no topic in sight, he falls into conversation with a Hale native (Reg Rogers) who tells him about Maggie. Shortly thereafter, Ike is typing away. But in the last-minute rush, he neglects minor details like fact-checking. When Maggie reads the column, she writes to the editor identifying numerous errors and lands Ike in serious trouble with his boss. A solution is proposed by Ike's friend, a photographer named Fisher (Hector Elizondo, a stock player in the Garry Marshall company), who also happens to be Ike's successor as Ellie's husband. Fisher suggests that Ike revive his journalistic credibility by writing an in-depth profile of Maggie for the cover of GQ, where Fisher has connections. Ike drives down to Hale, but his initial effort to investigate anonymously proves futile, because too many people recognize him from the picture that adorns his column. As a fallback, he begins charming everyone in Maggie's life, including her latest fiancé, Bob Kelly (Christopher Meloni), a coach at the local high school and a fitness fanatic, whose idea of the perfect honeymoon is to take Maggie mountain climbing. The more Ike gets to know Maggie and her world, the more intrigued he becomes, because . . . well, just because. Aside from the fact that she's played by Julia Roberts, Maggie has no special qualities other than her bewildering capacity to persuade men to propose marriage to someone with a well-known history of dumping grooms at the altar. Exploring how she works that magic, and what compels her to leap from one engagement to the next, might have supplied Runaway Bride with the tiny dose of grit that every good fairy tale needs to give it credibility. In Pretty Woman, for example, Vivian turns tricks, because she's broke, while Edward busts up companies, because he was abandoned as a child by his wealthy father. Both characters have been forced onto paths they might not have otherwise chosen because of deprivation. Motivations are never clarified in Runaway Bride, which, like too many romantic comedies, suffers from lazy storytelling. Having created an intriguing puzzle of a character in Maggie, the filmmakers can't be bothered to make any sense of her. The character isn't much more than a plot function (the Girl) waiting for another plot function (the Guy) so that the two of them can overcome a third plot function (the Obstacles) and ride off—literally, in this case—into the sunset. One can't argue with the box office results, but revisiting the film after fourteen years, one wonders what all the fuss was about. There isn't much there. Whatever comic bite Runaway Bride retains is due mostly to its supporting cast. As Maggie's best friend, Peggy, Joan Cusack brings her reliable snap to a part that, in other hands, would be purely functional. She's well matched by Hector Elizondo's Fisher, who puts an amusing spin on lines that have no right to be funny. Maggie's sexually frank Grandma is a stock character, but Jean Schertler underplays her just enough to be entertaining. An uncredited Laurie Metcalfe as wedding cake baker Betty Trout (the name alone is worth a laugh) steals all her scenes, and Donal Logue is funnier and more poignant in his brief appearance than either of the film's two stars.
Runaway Bride Blu-ray, Video Quality
Runaway Bride was shot by New Zealand cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano), for whom Marshall has nothing but praise in his commentary. Perhaps because he brought an outsider's eye to the task, Dryburgh eschewed the bright lighting more typically applied to American comedy, opting instead for a romantic sheen that softens even Ike's Manhattan scenes. The image on Warner's 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray doesn't "pop" off the screen, but it is well-detailed, with a fine, natural grain pattern and solid blacks that allow for fine detail even in dark areas of the frame. The color palette is dominated by earth tones and pastels, without any strongly saturated hues overwhelming the design. Even the whites of the various wedding dresses are not so blindingly white that they distract from the action. As Marshall makes clear in his commentary, his and Dryburgh's goal was to present their stars in the most flattering light possible. Otherwise, their visuals do the work of advancing the story unobtrusively. With limited special features and a healthy bitrate of 29.94 Mbps on a BD-50, compression artifacts were not an issue.
Runaway Bride Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The film's original 5.1 soundtrack is presented on Blu-ray in lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1, but it's a largely front-centered affair with the emphasis on dialogue and essential sound effects. Even the regular switches between the Maryland small-town environment and the bustle of the big city don't register sonically. Except when it comes to conversation and music, Marshall doesn't make expansive use of sound. Music supervisor Kathy Nelson has assembled a fine collection of songs contemporary and classical, including U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and Eric Clapton's gentle rendition of "Blue Eyes Blue", both of which occur at critical moments in the film. The underscoring is by the reliable James Newton Howard. All of the music plays with excellent dynamic range and good fidelity.
Runaway Bride Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray jacket lists the music video for the Dixie Chicks' "Ready to Run", which was included on Paramount's two previous DVD releases of Runaway Bride in 2000 and 2007. However, the video is not included. The commentary appeared on both DVDs, and the trailer was added on the 2007 DVD.
Runaway Bride Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Lest anyone be tempted to dismiss my criticisms of Runaway Bride as those of a cynical male viewer who doesn't "get" romantic comedy, I hasten to add that they were first suggested to me by another viewer, one whose devotion to the genre is second to none. A dedicated fan of Pretty Woman, she saw Runaway Bride when it first opened in theaters and watched the Blu-ray with me, vainly hoping it had improved with age. As the credits rolled, she proceeded to tell me everything that was wrong with the film. I took notes. Garry Marshall got his start writing character-driven comedy for such classic series as The Dick Van Dyke Show, and he became hugely successful as the creator of Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley. His early films, such as The Flamingo Kid, Nothing in Common and even Pretty Woman, were equally character-driven, even if the characters were occasionally fantastical. At some point, though, Marshall appears to have decided that it was enough to show attractive movie stars falling in love; the rest would take care of itself. That's the only explanation for the treacly holiday-themed anthologies that have comprised his most recent "films" (I put the word in quotes, because they look more like animated issues of People magazine). In hindsight, Runaway Bride may have been the turning point. If you're a fan of the film, the Blu-ray is fine (though missing one of the listed features). However, if you'd prefer to remember Gere and Roberts as they were in Pretty Woman, let this one get away.
Runaway Bride Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Runaway Bride Blu-ray - February 21, 2013
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has announced the Blu-ray release of Runaway Bride, the 1999 romantic comedy from director Garry Marshall and actors Richard Gere, Julia Roberts and Joan Cusack. Runaway Bride arrives on Blu-ray on May 17th.
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