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Bride & Prejudice DVD Review

Bride & Prejudice

US Theatrical Release: February 11, 2005 / Running Time: 112 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Gurinder Chadha

Cast: Aishwarya Rai (Lalita Bakshi), Martin Henderson (William Darcy), Nadira Babbar (Mrs. Bakshi), Anupam Kher (Mr. Bakshi), Naveen Andrews (Balraj Bingley), Namrata Shirodkar (Jaya Bakshi), Daniel Gillies (Johnny Wickham), Indira Varma (Kiran Bingley), Sonali Kulkarni (Chandra Lamba), Nitin Ganatra (Mr. Kholi), Meghnaa (Maya Bakshi), Peeya Rai Choudhuri (Lakhi Bakshi), Alexis Bledel (Georgie Darcy), Marsha Mason (Catherine Darcy), Ashanti (Herself)


Review by Renata Joy

Jane Austen's classic novel Pride and Prejudice is no stranger to film adaptations. From the black and white 1940 version starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson and the BBC's more recent miniseries which brought Colin Firth into the limelight to Bridget Jones's Diary and an upcoming project starring Keira Knightley, Austen's storyline appeals to a wide audience of all generations. With Bride and Prejudice, the story has once again been updated, this time into a Bollywood musical.

While modern day India and 19th century England might not seem to have much in common, Bride & Prejudice stays remarkably faithful to the original text. Jane Austen's study of class differences has been broadened to include the interaction between people of different cultures, namely India, England, and the United States.

In the beginning of the movie, we are introduced to the Bakshis, a middle class Indian family residing in the small town of Amritsar which consists of four daughters of marriageable age, a mother who is preoccupied with finding suitable husbands for them, and a father who couldn't care less about matchmaking matters. Lalita (Aishwarya Rai), the second eldest of the four daughters, claims her status as heroine by showing less enthusiasm for members of the opposite sex than the other females in her family.

Mama Bakshi scolds the baby of the family on her immodest wardrobe choices. Who can resist a shirtless Wickham on the beach?

When the Bakshis attend a party celebrating the upcoming nuptials of a friend, excitement (in the form of over-the-top dancing) ensues. As may be predicted, love interests are soon to appear. The attentions of Lalita's older sister Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar) are snagged by Balraj Bingley (Naveen Andrews, of the ABC drama "Lost"), a wealthy British Indian who is visiting Amritsar with his snooty sister and even snootier friend William Darcy (Martin Henderson), an American whose family owns a number of luxury hotels in the States. Lalita and Darcy immediately clash. Apparently, whatever it is Darcy has in good looks, he lacks in charm, as is clearly seen in his disdain for Indian culture, something which Lalita takes offense to.

Accompanying her sister on a trip with Bingley and Darcy, Lalita encounters Johnny Wickham (Daniel Gillies), a British chap who shares her distaste of Darcy, for reasons he fails to make quite clear. The remainder of the film plays with the theme of first impressions and (gasp!) Lalita may discover that Wickham isn't the man she thinks he is while at the same time realizing that her prejudice toward Darcy is no better than his pride.

One of the most enjoyable parts of Jane Austen's novels are her comedic caricatures. Most of the comic relief in Bride & Prejudice comes from Mr. Kholi (Nitin Ganatra), a relation of the Bakshis who has come from his modern home in Los Angeles in search of a wife and takes an immediate fancy to Lalita. The most entertaining musical sequence in the film, "No Life Without Wife", sung by the four sisters in their pajamas la something out of Grease, pokes fun at Kholi's attitude toward the necessity of marriage. Also amusing is the Bakshis' mother (Nadira Babbar), who is so desperate to marry her daughters off that she browses through ads in an online dating service. While pop songs and computer dating are not directly related to 19th century Britain, the characters in Bride & Prejudice manage to remain faithful to their literary counterparts, while at the same time updating them to appeal to modern audiences.

Kholi shows his stuff in bed. This should be a jungle exhibit. Raw!!!! Bronze-colored Ashanti performs one of the film's weakest musical numbers.

Bride & Prejudice is not a bad movie in itself. In the DVD's audio commentary, director Gurinder Chadha explains her desire to create a musical like the ones she grew up with. The result is a cross between a full-fledged Bollywood musical and a second-rate romantic comedy aimed at females between the ages of 16 and 25. The main characters are appealing, both likable and nice to look at, and the characters that do sing most definitely can, such as India's biggest starlet Rai.

But there is something missing. Lalita and Darcy have little chemistry, which makes her transition from disliking him to falling in love with him all the more unlikely. All this is to be expected in a typical romantic comedy and many of these instances can even be overlooked, enabling you to enjoy the unfolding of the plot, as predictable as it may be. However, throw in some musical numbers which are a strange hybrid of Eastern and bubblegum pop music and the effect isn't quite as nice. The songs themselves feel disconnected to the film, as if they are thrown in simply to make it a Bollywood production; they do not advance the storyline and exist only for their own sake. Perhaps I say this because I am not a particular fan of Eastern-sounding music, nor of twangy pop tunes. However, it is in a rare case like this which I find that an abundance of music does not make a film more enjoyable (cheesy dance numbers included).

The filmmakers may have succeeded in their efforts to make a certain kind of movie, but this goal has taken precedence over efforts to engage an audience. The resulting picture is a divisive one, and ultimately, a film I could appreciate but not really enjoy.

Buy Bride & Prejudice from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French),
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: July 5, 2005
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Black Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

Bride & Prejudice is presented in 2:35:1 widescreen, and, surprisingly enough, is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. The transfer boasts sharp visuals and bright colors, allowing the large group dance scenes to stand out like a gaudy vintage valentine. There appears to be no loss of confetti in the transfer from the big screen to DVD format.

Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is the only audio presented on the disc, and it suits the film just fine. The musical sequences blend well with the spoken dialog, and I found no need to adjust the volume while watching. The crisp speech and crystal clear sounds of drums signifying another dance number made me wish even more that the music was better.

The director appears in the making-of featurette "Bringing Bombay to L.A." The pretty girl looks back in "A Conversation with Aishwarya Rai." The white guy curses nonchalantly in "A Conversation with Martin Henderson."

BONUS FEATURES

First of a spattering of supplements is a feature-length audio commentary with husband and wife filmmaking team of director Gurinder Chadha and writer Paul Mayeda Berges. Their discussion becomes most enlightening when Chadha makes references to parts which are taken directly from the novel. Otherwise, there are many exclamations regarding peculiar faces certain actors make, plenty of self-congratulatory remarks on how convincing selected filming locations stand in for the places they depict, and several pauses throughout. The track is worth listening to if you find the film as pleasing as the speakers do.

Next, there are ten minutes and 18 seconds worth of deleted scenes, which are all enhanced for widescreen displays. They include a confrontation between Lalita and Mrs. Darcy entirely absent from the film, an extended view of the Bakshis bickering over marriage prospects, and William Darcy trying unsuccessfully to relax via yoga.

"Extended Songs" are exactly what they proclaim themselves to be. Unless you are very familiar with the musical numbers in the film, you will not notice any changes aside from the fact that they drag on even more than in the theatrical cut. In essence, this plays like a nearly 23-minute music-only version of a movie which would have fared better as the 90 minutes without.

"Bringing Bombay to L.A.: The Making of Bride & Prejudice" (10:55) is a fairly standard production featurette which goes through the trials and tribulations of creating a Bollywood-style musical with a Western flair.

"A Conversation with Aishwarya Rai" (8:19) catches up with the lead actress as she reminisces about her time on the film. "A Conversation with Martin Henderson" (4:30) discusses the American actor's concerns about singing and dancing (something which he never actually does in the film).

Oh no, who let the director on the stage?! The loud and vibrant "Bride & Prejudice" Main Menu.

Also self-explanatory from its title, "The Crew Does the Songs" (4:52) brings to mind the recorded antics of a silly high school drama club which nobody really cares to see.

Finally, "Ashanti's Song" (2:55) features director Chadha talking about the extreme low point of the film in which a scantily-clad Ashanti sings at an Indian night club. Those expecting to see the song on its own here will have to return to the "Extended Songs" section, if that's your type of thing.

The 16x9 menus are vibrant and burst with loud music, pleasing fans of noise. The main menu cycles through a montage of scenes, which are compacted into a heart-shaped viewing space. Submenus are not animated, but likewise deliver the overly potent soundtrack selections.

No life...without wife. Oooh yeah yeah.... ooh yeah yeah yeah! You're not truly in love until you dance amidst fountains in the night.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

In creating a film which reproduces the Bollywood musicals she grew up with, Gurinder Chadha might have satisfied her own artistic needs. In trying too hard to Westernize the format, however, she has made neither a completely authentic Bollywood production nor a twist on the genre accessible to all audiences. What she succeeds in creating is a fair adaptation of a good story, which is overshadowed by flimsy pop songs.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Shall We Dance? (2004) Finding Neverland (2004)
Sling Blade (1996) (Director's Cut Collector's Series) Carolina (2005)

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Reviewed August 9, 2005.

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