Saturday, March 24, 2007

EVER AFTER: Blu-ray (20th Century-Fox 1998) Fox Home Video

Andy Tennant’s Ever After (1998) is a sumptuously mounted and ever so slight revision of the traditional Cinderella fable. The film stars Drew Barrymore as Danielle De Barbarac. Born to privilege, the young Danielle’s world is shattered when her father, Auguste (Jeroen Krabbe) dies of a heart attack in her arms.

Danielle’s stepmother, the jealous Baroness Rodmilla De Ghent (Angelica Huston) seizes upon the tragedy to transform Danielle into the family’s servant, waiting hand and foot on her own daughters’ every whim; the spoiled and simpering Marguerite (Megan Dodds) and infinitely more understanding, Jacqueline (Melanie Lynskey).

However, a ray of hope enters Danielle’s bitter life when she attacks the handsome Prince Henry (Dougray Scott) whom she first mistakes as a common thief. The prince must marry – and soon, such is the royal decree and wish of his parents, King Francis (Timothy West) and Queen Mary (Judy Parfitt). 

Henry seeks the counsel of trusted friend, Leonardo (Patrick Godfrey). Meanwhile, Danielle skulks away to impersonate a lady of stature. She arrives at a lavish court ball and wins Henry's heart. But the Baroness has other plans. She exposes Danielle as a fraud, incurring Henry's wrath. She then sells Danielle's bond in servitude to Pierre Le Pieu (Richard O'Brien). But Pierre gets more than he bargained for when Danielle proves herself to be a formidable enemy. 

Henry's wedding day to Princess Gabriella (Virginia Garcia) arrives. But as the groom reluctantly prepares to take his bride to the altar she weeps so terribly for another that Henry cannot help but realize once and for all that his own heart belongs to Danielle. Rushing to Pierre's foreboding castle, Henry is startled to discover Danielle already on her way home. He offers her his hand in marriage, explaining that her station in life means absolutely nothing to him and Danielle agrees to marry him.  

Ever After is a rather straight forward retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale. I can recall at the time of the film's release director Andy Tennant touted it as 'something new'. But actually, the opposite is true. Apart from the bookends that take place with the Brother's Grimm attempting to learn 'the truth' behind the Cinderella fable, the rest of the story is pretty much what we all remember from our childhoods and the 1950 Disney animated classic (minus the magical fairy godmother). That said, director Tennant is particularly engaged on this outing. What might otherwise have become a cliché ridden and predictable regurgitation of a story we know all too well, is instead refreshingly bright and spirited. 

There is just enough comedy to sustain the subtleties of romance without crushing it into romantic farce. Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott make for a winning couple that we can truly cheer for and hope that they come together. Angelica Houston is a formidable villain, striking just the right chord of menace. In the end, Ever After proves a winsome escape from the everyday in one of the longest running ‘happily-ever-afters’ on record.

Fox Home Video gives us another Blu-ray exported from tired old digital files used to derive the original DVD. This is not a 1080p rescan but a 720p image bumped up to a 1080p signal. The results, predictably, do not live up to expectations. Yes, the image tightens up. It's sharper than the DVD and ever so slightly more bold in its color rendering. But we don't get that 'wow' and 'snap' that a true rescan would have given us. It isn't that the Blu-ray is awful - just not stellar and frankly, there is NO GOOD REASON why it should not be amazing. The audio is 5.1 DTS and nicely realized. 

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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