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Father of the Bride: 15th Anniversary Special Edition DVD Review

Father of the Bride (1991)

Theatrical Release: December 20, 1991 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Charles Shyer / Writers: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Nancy Meyers, Charles Shyer

Cast: Steve Martin (George Banks), Diane Keaton (Nina Banks), Kimberly Williams (Annie Banks), Kieran Culkin (Matty Banks), George Newbern (Bryan MacKenzie), Martin Short (Franck Eggelhoffer), B.D. Wong (Howard Weinstein), Peter Michael Goetz (John MacKenzie), Kate McGregor Stewart (Joanna MacKenzie)

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Review by Aaron Wallace

Since its release, 1991's Father of the Bride has become as close to a Touchstone classic as the studio can claim (it even spawned a sequel!). It's therefore fitting that it's based on a legitimate film classic by the same name. The film follows the anxieties of Steve Martin's character, George Banks (a name familiar to the studio), who has just found out that his 22-year old daughter (Annie, played by Kimberly Williams) accepted a marriage proposal while in Rome.

To kick off the movie, Martin locks eyes with the camera for a monologue, set at the time of the wedding. Shortly thereafter, the story backtracks to just before Annie first broke the news and proceeds from there. The monologue continues during the change in setting and evolves into a narrative from the title character that drives the film. Though this rather obvious approach at conveying a character's thoughts and feelings might not fly with some who prefer subtlety, it does bring a memoir-like feeling to the film that seems appropriate.

Upon hearing their daughter's surprising news, George and Nina react in slightly different ways. Making things right for his daughter never hurt so bad.

As the wedding day looms, George quickly loses composure. The shock of the news is only made worse by an immediate dinner with the seemingly perfect groom-to-be and a disastrous first meeting with his parents. Money becomes a source of stress as well and the cost of the wedding looms even heavier over George's head when a larger-than-life reception coordinator (Martin Short) with an accent that only George can't understand enters the scene and runs up the bill with extravagancies including ice sculptures and live swans.
The thought of losing his daughter and paying a fortune to do so becomes too much for George to take. A nervous breakdown while running an errand lands him in jail, where cooler minds prevail and his wife (Diane Keaton) leads him to reevaluate his attitude. The appropriately fast-paced film explores all the traditional ins and outs of preparation for the traditional wedding and marches on through the ceremony itself and the evening that follows.

While watching the first half of the movie, I have to admit to wondering what all the fuss is about. What's so remarkable about a typical bombshell announcement of impending matrimony? Shortly thereafter, I got my answer. What sets this movie apart from every other wedding flick is that the central focus is never on the bride. The destination may be her big day, but it is not her movie. Instead, the events are always rendered from the perspective of her father, whose struggle with letting his beloved only daughter go is the story's core. Even at the altar, it is not the "I Do"s that take the stage, but rather the way in which George processes them. Through this lens, the film successfully relays a moving sentiment that should have no trouble sticking with an audience. Fathers will no doubt relate to the role, but so will anyone who has experienced or admired the love of family.

The age-old dilemma of the differing number of hot dog buns and frankfurters pushes George over the edge. Martin Short plays the scene-stealing wedding designer Franck, in his second big screen pairing with Steve Martin.

There's a delicate balance of comedy and drama in the story. Much of this charm comes through in the constant hustle-bustle of the film, well accented by Shyer's direction. The acting, too, is winning, thanks to a cast that just happens to be all-star today. Steve Martin seems the perfect fit for the lead and it is to Diane Keaton's credit that she is able to give a more subdued portrayal than is typical for her, balancing the wired tensions of her character's husband. Kimberly Williams (who now dons the last name of her real-life husband, country music star Brad Paisley) adds to the chemistry in this, her first film, and George Newbern partners with her well. Comedic genius Martin Short is downright hilarious as Franck, the biggest laugh-getter. Even Kieran Culkin is infectious in his small role as Annie's younger brother. A collection of oldies music brings a warm feeling to the picture and compliments the pace.

Though it's only 14 years old, Father of the Bride makes its way to DVD for the second time as a 15th Anniversary Special Edition. This numerical discrepancy is either a pretty big oversight or an intentional deception, but it's essentially inconsequential. The DVD presentation is agreeable, but not much more than that.

Buy Father of the Bride: 15th Anniversary Special Edition on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English
Closed Captioned
Release Date: June 7, 2005
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Black Keepcase with Side Snaps
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VIDEO and AUDIO

Father of the Bride is correctly presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, and unlike its previous DVD, it is now enhanced for 16x9 screens. The transfer exhibits a good bit of grain, more in some areas than others. Edge enhancement is pretty obvious in some scenes, while little to none shows up in others. A few of the scenes seem to be a little darker than one might like as well. None of these problems are especially serious, though. The video quality could certainly use some improvement, but is on the whole better than what many movies receive, and isn't reason enough alone to pass up this release.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound audio track leaves very little to be desired. It's consistently crisp, clean, and very well-mixed. This isn't the sort of movie in which the rear channels are going to be key players, but there's almost always something going on in them, be it background noise, sound effects, or ample shares of the score. The music employs a healthy amount of bass as well.

"Martin & Short Interview Each Other"...and the sarcasm soars. Director Charles Shyer, co-writer/wife Nancy Meyers, and the rest of the crew as seen in production featurette "An Invitation to Father of the Bride." The animated main menu is accompanied by the opening credits score.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Just weeks after another hit title in the Touchstone catalog, Beaches, received a fairly satisfying treatment of bonus features on a newly released Special Edition DVD, Father of the Bride is disappointingly reissued with a little less flair.
There are but three bonus features, two of which were filmed at the time of production and one of which is the only supplement newly created for DVD, a feature-length audio commentary with director and co-writer Charles Shyer. His wife joined him on the script as she often does (the duo's work includes Baby Boom with Diane Keaton and the '90s remake of The Parent Trap). Having filled so many roles in the production, he of course has a lot to say, though he admits that this is the first time he's seen it in well over a decade. From listening to parts of the track, there seems to be quite a few lulls but they never last very long. Shyer throws in a lot of trivia, but also gives mostly relevant insight to what's actually being seen on the screen. He also makes the surprising declaration that the original Father of the Bride doesn't hold up today and wastes no time in setting his film apart as an independent and more accessible work. It isn't the most interesting of commentaries, and can be a bit self-praising at times, but it isn't nearly the worst and should be a treat for fans.

"Martin & Short Interview Each Other" (5:13) is a montage of brief skits between the two stars Steve Martin and Martin Short. To be fair, it's quite obvious that these are fragments of an interview the two gave to someone else - they aren't really interviewing each other. Still, Martin's dry humor and Short's more flamboyant style play off one another and make for an amusing supplement. At the very least, it's interesting to see glimpses of ego as the two compete for which one gets to make the next joke.

"An Invitation to Father of the Bride" (10:35) is a brief behind the scenes making-of featurette that incorporates interviews with cast and crew on the set with clips of the Short-Martin interview that weren't used in the above segment. There isn't a lot of depth here, but the thoughts shared and the levity depicted provide some insight on what making the film was like for those involved.

The 16x9 main menu and bonus features screen make use of white and silver colors to suggest a wedding and back up rotating clips from the film with selections from the score. The rest of the sub-menus use score selections as well, but with still frames. In a helpful touch, the length of each bonus feature is included on the screen. The disc opens with previews for Herbie: Fully Loaded, The Pacifier, and Home Improvement: The Complete Second Season. No other previews are housed in the Sneak Peeks section. Father of the Bride's trailer, included on its initial DVD release, is naturally nowhere to be found here which pushes one to again pose the question "Where have the trailers gone?"

The DVD is packaged in a black keepcase, which includes those now-common protective snaps on the side. Inside, a double-sided insert lists the 15 chapter selections on one side and advertisements for similar Buena Vista DVDs on the other. The disc itself repeats the cover art.

Planning the wedding is a challenge in many ways. And so is George's realization that he's 'losing' his daughter.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The PG rating and comedian billing ensures Father of the Bride the label of "family comedy," and in that it's funny and appropriate for just about any age, it is that. The laughs take a back seat to the tender story of a frustrated father, though, and it's for this relatable storyline that the film is exceptional and much-loved to this day.
It's far from a masterpiece, but it does finish as a success and is certainly worth a watch.

The DVD is a little less than one might have hoped for. What's there isn't bad, but it could be better, and there could certainly be more. The video quality has its flaws but is mostly acceptable, while audio leaves no complaints at all. The bonus features are enjoyable, but few in number and brief in length (the commentary notwithstanding, of course). A little more effort to give this film its due - newly created features, perhaps - after "15 years" would certainly have been appreciated.

All that chalks up to a really good movie on a decent DVD, and that isn't too shabby for a Touchstone release of one of its catalog titles. Therefore, if your interest has been piqued (and hopefully it has), this release is probably worth checking out.

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Related Reviews:
Written by Nancy Meyers & Charles Shyer: The Parent Trap (1998) (Special Double Trouble Edition)
Written by Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett: It's a Wonderful Life (2-Disc Collector's Set with Ornament)
Steve Martin: Shopgirl The Muppet Show: Season 2 The Muppet Movie | Diane Keaton: Mama's Boy The Godfather Trilogy
Martin Short: Jungle 2 Jungle The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause Treasure Planet The Spiderwick Chronicles
The Happiest Millionaire Mary Poppins (45th Anniversary Edition) Freaky Friday (2003) Shall We Dance? (2004)
Touchstone Re-Releases: Beaches Dead Poets Society Good Morning, Vietnam 10 Things I Hate About You

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Reviewed June 6, 2005.



Text copyright 2005 UltimateDisney.com. Images copyright 1991 Touchstone Pictures and 2005 Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.