<center><img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/m-p/miramax-header.jpg" alt="Miramax in Focus">
Carolina DVD Review</center>
<center><table border="0"><tr><td width="100" valign="top"><a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0001WTWD8/thehomeimprovemz"><img src="http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B0001WTWD8.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg" width="100" height="140" border="0" alt="Buy Carolina on DVD from Amazon.com"></a></td><td width="600" valign="center"><font face="Verdana">Carolina<br>Movie and DVD Details<br>Director: Marleen Gorris<br>Cast: Julia Stiles (Carolina Mirabeau), Shirley MacLaine (Grandma Mirabeau), Alessandro Nivola (Albert Morris), Randy Quaid (Ted Mirabeau), Edward Atterton (Heath Pierson), Azura Skye (Georgia Mirabeau), Mika Boorem (Maine Mirabeau), Jennifer Coolidge (Aunt Marilyn), Alan Thicke (Chuck McBride), John Capodice (Ernie the Cook), Lisa Sheridan (Debbie), Ambyr Childers (Young Carolina), Davleigh Chase (Young Georgia)<br>Video Premiere: February 1, 2005 / Running Time: 98 minutes / Rating: PG-13<br>1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) Subtitles: English, Spanish; Closed Captioned<br>Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9); Suggested Retail Price: $29.99.</font></p></td></tr></table></center>
<i>Carolina</i> is an odd little film that was made three years ago and finally released widely on DVD earlier this winter. This Miramax picture stars Julia Stiles as Carolina Mirabeau, a young woman who has grown up under circumstances that many would consider unusual. She was raised by her Grandma (Shirley MacLaine), a bold and often obnoxious personality. Her father Ted (Randy Quaid) is mostly out of the picture. Having provided his genes for three girls, each named after the state in which they were conceived, Ted has remained absent, somewhat wild and struggling to beat alcoholism.
Less than ten minutes are spent on Carolina's childhood (in which middle daughter Georgia is portrayed by Davleigh Chase, the voice of Lilo), but they lay the groundwork for the rest of this uneven film. Now, Carolina is grown up and living on her own in Los Angeles, but her life is still very much determined by her quirky Southern family. Carolina works at a reality matchmaking TV series called "The Perfect Date", but the irony of it is--get this--she can't seem to find Mr. Right!
We're shown how Carolina has had trouble keeping relationships when her latest flakes on her after three dates. Grandma isn't the most comforting, but Carolina's best friend Albert is there for her. Albert (Alessandro Nivola of <i>Jurassic Park III</i> fame) is a closet romance novel writer who uses the pen name Daphne something or other. Grandma Mirabeau reads the books religiously, but only Carolina knows her friend's secret. But Albert has another secret that is pretty clear to the viewer from the beginning.
<center><img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/carolina1.jpg" alt="Julia Stiles plays Carolina."> <img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/carolina2.jpg" alt="Shirley MacLaine plays her coarse grandmother."></center>
This leads to a love triangle when Heath Pierson (Edward Atterton), a dashing British contestant on the show she just got fired from, asks Carolina out and appears to be the stable longterm boyfriend she was always looking for.
Carolina and Heath's relationship, and Albert's potential feelings for Carolina together provide the romance aspects of the film. Another substantial part is family drama. Carolina's teenage sister Georgia (now played by Azura Skye) is pregnant from a one-night stand and she intends to have the baby even if she can't work up the nerve to tell Grandma. Thanksgiving with the fam and later Christmas provide more drama for Carolina and I suppose more attempts at humor. Carolina's youngest sister, the pre-teen Maine ocasionally employs a British accent and she's trying to win the lottery by riding a stationary horse in her room. Oh, and their Aunt Marilyn (Jennifer Coolidge) is a hooker who's in trouble with the law from time-to-time. It's more silly than funny and amidst the Southern caricatures, there are very few likable individuals.
Though the capable cast saves the pretty standard material from being worse than it is, that doesn't change the fact that <i>Carolina</i> is mostly an uneven and unappealing story. The DVD's tagline ("She met the boy of her dreams...twice.") doesn't seem to have any relevance to the film and its cover art makes the film look like something it's not. It never really achieves the romantic comedy tone that it wants to veil itself in. While it juggles a few subjects, none are really given satisfactory treatment.
<center><img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/carolina3.jpg" alt="Carolina broods in the bathtub in front of her male friend."> <img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/carolina4.jpg" alt="Carolina's best friend (Alessandro Nivola) and drunk dad (Randy Quaid)"></center>
In spite of concerted efforts to create a type of believable atmosphere, the mix of quirky lower class personalities doesn't feel real or compelling. One can identify the dysfunctional family early on and much of the film doesn't aspire to do anything more than depict this strongly-bound clan of offbeat relatives.
It doesn't help matters that the film is rather incoherent at points. Whether it's the result of efforts to salvage the film or simply poor editing, there are some odd gaps in the flow of things. Questions arise and go unanswered, and though linear, the chronology is fragmented. At one point, five months have passed, and it's unclear how or why.
Perhaps the most telling sign of trouble is that the copyright year listed in the end credits is 2002. This is a film that has been sitting around for some time, and in fact, the DVD appears to have been pressed a couple of years ago and simply not released until last month. That doesn't mean we should write off <i>Carolina</i> - quality movies have been shelved in the past. But the direct-to-video route seems easy to explain by the fact that there's very little to appeal to or engage audiences.
You get an inoffensive but unfocused film, one which is not profound as it seems to think itself at times. Instead, it's curious, predictable, and unsubtle. Maybe there's someone out there for who these characters and situation could strike a chord, but I think you'd have to look long and hard. And there'd be as much point in such a search as there is in this movie, which is none.
<center><img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/carolina5.jpg" alt="Georgia, Maine, and Carolina. Not just states, but sisters."> <img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/carolina6.jpg" alt="'Growing Pains' father Alan Thicke plays the showy host of 'Perfect Date.'"></center>
<b>VIDEO and AUDIO</b>
<i>Carolina</i> is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and it's a surprisingly far from stellar transfer. Perhaps the low-budget nature of the film is to blame, but picture quality is generally unspectacular. The video is consistently soft. There's some shimmering in a number of shots. Grain turns up quite a bit in close ups. While the DVD is of course quite watchable, it leaves a great deal to be desired for such a relatively recent film.
There's less to detract from the audio presentation, which is a basic Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Music turns up in the beginning, the end, and various parts of the film one is supposed to take interest in and it sometimes pushes the dynamics too much to the point where you might be reaching for your remote. Dialogue is usually intelligble, but not always crisply conveyed. The material doesn't really demand much in the way of special effects or a spatial soundfield, and so the subdued Dolby track serves the material suitably.
The only bonus feature is "<i>Carolina</i>: Behind the Scenes" (7:45), a fast-moving, somewhat fluffy production featurette. Many cast and crew members offer praise for the film in the standard short sound bites, and there's a bit of interesting on-the-set footage. It's nothing groundbreaking, but a nice and easy inclusion for anyone who cares to hear more on the film. The most interesting relevation is that screenwriter Katherine Fugate's script is mostly autobiographical.
At the start of the disc, there is a promo for Miramax Films, which highlights the studio's various 2002 Oscar nominations and suggests that this disc has been sitting around for quite some time. The Sneak Peeks menu adds previews for <i>Scary Movie 3</i> and <i>My Baby's Daddy</i>, which supports that hypothesis. Menus are 16 x 9 still frames which feature artwork from the film. (The main menu is oh-so-cleverly a broken heart.)
<center><img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/carolina7.jpg" alt="Should she choose the best friend?"> <img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/carolina8.jpg" alt="Or the British guy who has lots of money?"></center>
<i>Carolina</i> is a way to pass 98 minutes and as nothing more, it's not a very productive way to spend time. The film yearns to be a resonant romantic comedy, like it says on the back of the case, "funny and charming as <i>Sweet Home Alabama</i>." But in spite of fine performances from the cast, there's little to appreciate or relate to. The quirky, lower class Southern characters are tiresome and Carolina's romantic quandries offer nothing new. Overall, this is one to skip for anyone who's not a diehard fan of someone in the cast and even then it's a rental at best.
<center><a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0001WTWD8/thehomeimprovemz">More on the DVD / Buy <b>Carolina</b> from Amazon.com</a></center>
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