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Chances Are Blu-ray Review

Chances Are (1989) movie poster Chances Are

Theatrical Release: March 10, 1989 / Running Time: 108 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Emile Ardolino / Writers: Perry Howze, Randy Howze

Cast: Cybill Shepherd (Corinne Jeffries), Robert Downey Jr. (Alex Finch), Ryan O'Neal (Philip Train), Mary Stuart Masterson (Miranda Jeffries), Christopher McDonald (Louie Jeffries), Josef Sommer (Judge Harrison Fenwick), Joe Grifasi (Omar), Henderson Forsythe (Ben Bradlee), Susan Ruttan (Woman in the Bookstore), Fran Ryan (Mavis Talmadge), James Noble (Dr. Bailey), Marc McClure (Richard), Mimi Kennedy (Sally), Kathleen Freeman (Mrs. Handy), Dennis Patrick (Archibald Blair), Martin Garner (Mr. Zellerbach), Gianni Russo (Anthony Bonino), Channing Chase (Aide at Smithsonian)

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After more than twenty years of directing and producing television including the Emmy and Oscar-winning 1983 documentary He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin', Emile Ardolino moved to helming narrative theatrical feature films. He made five such films in a period of six years, before passing away at age 50 from AIDS complications.
The five included a couple of hits that have endured: Dirty Dancing (a suitable debut, given Ardolino's past PBS profiles of choreographers and dancers) and Sister Act. In between those, Ardolino made the profitable sequel 3 Men and a Little Lady and the romantic comedy fantasy Chances Are.

Chances Are was Ardolino's second least-attended film (surpassing only the posthumously released The Nutcracker), but it's still a big enough deal to get a 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray next week. Don't read too much into the milestone; distributor Image Entertainment often celebrates anniversaries with as little fanfare as possible. The fact that Chances Are is hitting Blu-ray at all eight years into the format's existence may not be unrelated to the fact that it prominently features one of today's biggest movie stars, Robert Downey Jr. Though second billed behind Cybill Shepherd, Downey is the center of attention for the Blu-ray's cover art and that's an acceptable approach, given that he rivals Shepherd in screentime and for protagonist status here.

Despite the age difference, Corinne (Cybill Shepherd) and the reincarnation of her husband (Robert Downey Jr.) try to pick things up where they left off in the 1989 romantic comedy "Chances Are."

The film opens in the 1960s with the wedding of Louie (Christopher McDonald) and Corinne Jeffries (Shepherd). You may sense something wrong in McDonald, best known as Happy Gilmore antagonist Shooter McGavin, playing the romantic lead. That might explain why he is killed off quite quickly, on the Washington D.C. couple's first wedding anniversary. Louie is hit by a car crossing the street to the restaurant where Corinne awaits him, a pretty traumatic way to go.

In a moment, Louie's up in Heaven. Too excitable to wait in line with the rest of the recently-deceased, he makes a fuss and is quickly assigned a new body: a baby about to be born not too far from his old stomping grounds. Louie is in such a rush to return to Earth that he fails to receive clerical angels' standard memory-erasing injection before going back.

We jump ahead 23 years to the then-present day of 1989. Smithsonian curator Corinne has still not gotten over Louie. She keeps his picture all over the house (even inside the fridge), cooks for him, and even sets aside the occasional Peppermint Patty. Her shrink ("Benson" governor James Noble) claims she's suffering from the halo effect and needs to move on. She's been helped by the unflagging support of Louie's best friend Philip (Ryan O'Neal), a twice-divorced, Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who's been in love with her forever (telling Louie so much as she approached the altar) but has never told her or made a move.

A freshly-deceased Louie Jeffries (Christopher McDonald) wants to return to Earth as soon as possible. Corinne Jeffries (Cybill Shepherd) detects something familiar in the young man she's just met.

Corinne's daughter (the one she first told Louie she was expecting on the day he died) is now around 22. Miranda (Mary Stuart Masterson) is in law school, following in the footsteps of the father she never knew but never stops hearing about. She meets Alex Finch (Downey) at a school library, who erases some steep overdue fines for her. Living out of his car upon his graduation from Yale, Alex is desperate to get a job at the Washington Post.
Recognizing the young man's desperation first on an incognito elevator ride, Philip puts in a good word with editor Ben Bradlee (Henderson Forsythe), but to no avail.

After Alex gives him a ride in his messy home on wheels, Philip invites Alex over for a home-cooked dinner. Yes, his home is with the Jeffries girls and while Alex is excited to reconnect with Miranda, he's blown away to reunite with the love of his former life, Corinne.

The movie delays a confession for a while and then, of course, complicates it, by having Alex fail to include specifics to remove doubt. Corinne is understandably peeved that this stranger would claim to be the reincarnation of her late husband. Eventually, she becomes convinced and falls for the recent grad despite the barely perceptible age difference (15 years separate the actors in real life) that gets them mistaken for mother and son.

With four photogenic lead actors on the cover representing two generations, it's obvious where Chances Are is heading, so long as it can first clear the creepy paternal link between Alex and Miranda, whose advances he must fend off until then.

Philip (Ryan O'Neal) notices something strange about Alex (Robert Downey Jr.), who betrays his food delivery boy disguise with some noshing.

Stupid but sweet, Chances Are is the kind of movie they don't make anymore: a PG-rated romantic comedy fantasy that doesn't have a specific audience in mind. Romance movies are obviously intended for couples and the fairer sex, but this one doesn't really discriminate between young and old moviegoers. The most recent movie I can think of in the same vein might be While You Were Sleeping,
which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year (and is overdue for a Blu-ray!). Chances Are feels older than it is; it's tough to believe this opened just a few months before Batman and Ghostbusters II. The story feels like one that Frank Capra might have directed in the 1930s.

You almost suspect that the screenwriters Perry and Randy Howze could be aging vets who started working near the beginning of the sound age. There's actually very little information available about the two, who I assume are either brothers or a married couple. Chances Are was their third and final screenplay credit in three years, following the Ally Sheedy comedy Maid to Order and Julia Roberts' Mystic Pizza. It's always interesting when careers start and stop abruptly. Nowadays, bonus features and the Internet at least give us a face or voice to go with the name, but the Howzes came and went without leaving any kind of trail.

Met with middling reviews and modest box office (adjusted for inflation, its $16.3 million gross equates to a still unremarkable $34.2 M), Chances Are might be forgotten if not for the star power it wields. Even that doesn't do much for the film. Downey may be a box office draw, but his Iron Man age represents a distinct third phase of his career, removed from his troubled indie stage and the young romantic lead image he cut in this and other late '80s films. Those who like The Avengers and Sherlock Holmes are likely looking ahead to his next films, but it's unlikely they're also going so far back for something like this.

The other three leads have all seen their careers trail off. O'Neal is better-known nowadays for his family troubles and being Farrah Fawcett's sorta widower than for his productive time on Hollywood's A-list in the 1970s. TV has been keeping Shepherd visible into her sixties, with recurring roles on shows like "The L Word", "Psych", and "The Client List" employing her since her moderately successful '90s CBS sitcom "Cybill" signed off after four seasons. Masterson's once bustling film career slowed shortly before her 30th birthday and she has been scarce ever since and almost exclusively on the small screen (her most recent IMDb "Known For" credit is 1993's Benny & Joon).

A TriStar Pictures release, Chances Are is among the many catalog titles that in recent years Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has licensed out to smaller studios. The Image Entertainment division of RLJ Entertainment handles Tuesday's Blu-ray and DVD release, which seems smartly timed to Mother's Day.

Chances Are: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
2.0 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: April 22, 2014 / Suggested Retail Price: $17.97
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available on DVD ($9.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video
Previously released as Sony DVD (April 14, 1998)
and Double Feature 2-DVD Set with Only You (October 7, 2008)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Chances Are retains the look of a 1980s film. The 1.85:1 picture is soft, warm, and clean, while retaining a suitable amount of light grain throughout. Though lacking compared to today's movies, there's enough detail to notice that a fly intrudes the close-ups of both Shepherd and O'Neal in their closing close-ups (should have done another take, Emile!).

The 2.0 DTS-HD master audio is fine but unremarkable. The most prominent feature may be a score that's outrageously tinkly at times. Dialogue is always easily heard and understood, but English SDH subtitles are gladly included too.

Character stills surround video from the Jeffries wedding (Christopher McDonald and Cybill Shepherd) on the Chances Are Blu-ray menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Typical for an RLJ licensed Sony movie, nary a single bonus feature is included here. That's one less thing than was found on Sony's original 1998 DVD, which offered the film's theatrical trailer.

The menu plays heavenly clips between Polaroids of the cast featured on the front and back of the Blu-ray's side-snapped, insert-less keepcase, while the instrumental version of "After All", the Oscar-nominated Cher and Peter Cetera closing love theme plays. The Blu-ray does not resume playback, but does let you set bookmarks on the film.

Alex (Robert Downey Jr.) and Miranda (Mary Stuart Masterson) might make a cute age-appropriate couple if he didn't talk to her like a child.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

As predictable and dumb as any romantic comedy, Chances Are nonetheless remains kind of endearing for its sweet exploration of life and love after death.
It's not a film that should embarrass Robert Downey Jr., though his career has since gone in dramatically different and generally better directions.

Like other Image catalog Blu-rays, this one sports fine picture and sound but absolutely nothing else. Both the distributor and Sony could sweeten their occasional partnership with a tiny bit of effort, like presenting the trailer in high definition and including ones for other titles included in this licensing deal. As is, it's tough to imagine many people liking the movie enough to spend $16 plus shipping and tax ($10 more than the new DVD) to own it on Blu-ray.

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Related Reviews:
Robert Downey Jr.: Iron Man 3 Tropic Thunder Sherlock Holmes Due Date Back to School The Shaggy Dog (2006) Zodiac
Cybill Shepherd: Taxi Driver | Ryan O'Neal: Love Story | Mary Stuart Masterson: On the 2nd Day of Christmas
Directed by Emile Ardolino: Sister Act | Christopher McDonald: Kickin' It Old Skool | James Noble: Benson: Season 1
Image Entertainment Blu-rays: Peggy Sue Got Married Blind Date Quicksilver
Late '80s: The Little Mermaid Say Anything... Adventures in Babysitting Ishtar Dead Poets Society
New: Labor Day August: Osage County Philomena The Invisible Woman At Middleton

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Reviewed April 18, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1989 Tri-Star Pictures and 2014 Image Entertainment, RLJ Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.