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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Italian, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 9 Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary - Director Peter Chelsom
  • Featurette
  • Production notes
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Storyboards

Serendipity

Miramax/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 87 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

If one of your unswerving beliefs is that somewhere on the planet lurks your soul mate – probably living in Tahiti if you listen to Jilted John - then you’re certainly not alone. What’s curious to some of us, though, is how adamant some are that this soul mate must be a potential intimate partner, rather than perhaps a friend with whom to share all the important stuff in life without the messy bits. Take a healthy handful of the intimate partner theory, throw in a pinch of Sleepless in Seattle and, by default, that which inspired it, An Affair to Remember, and you have the basis of Serendipity.

"Serendipity, it's one of my favourite words. It's such a nice sounding word for what it means - a fortunate accident. "

Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (a seemingly skinnier by the minute Kate Beckinsale) meet by chance at New York department store Bloomingdales one Christmas, haggling over a pair of black cashmere gloves. Regardless of the fact that each of them has a partner, they find undeniable sparks flying between them, get to chatting, and proceed to spend the evening in each others’ company. They walk, they talk, they eat, they skate – and they discuss all manner of life’s little bits and pieces until the time comes to part. After experiencing the most memorable night of his life, Jonathan asks for Sara’s phone number, however she believes that some sort of fate brought them together this night, so if there’s anything to it fate will bring them together once again.

He writes his name and number on a five dollar bill, whilst she writes hers inside a copy of the book Love in the Time of Cholera (which may be familiar to High Fidelity trainspotters). The idea being, of course, that if either of them ever comes into possession of either item they are meant to be together, and have the means to get in contact. Let’s just hope neither of them moves, or the five buck note doesn’t get worn out and pulled from circulation, or...

And so we flash forward to seven years later, when Jonathan is set to marry a girl named Hailey. He’s still unable to shake his memories of that night in New York, however, and in a flurry of cold feet and hyper-romanticism he sets out to have one last try at tracking down the mysterious Sara. Meanwhile, she’s shacked up with a bizarre new-age clarinet player called Lars (the tall outdoorsy bloke from Northern Exposure and Sex and the City) – who’s all full of Beck-like moves, but is seriously the kind of guy who Kenny G would think totally daggy. Sara, too, isn’t quite sure what she’s doing romantically, and so she sets out on her own Agatha Christie-like sleuthing adventure in search of Jonathan. All manner of coincidences, close calls and near misses befall our two fate-crossed potential lovers – are they destined to be together, or are the gods just having a bit of fun playing cosmic chess with them?

It’s all great fun, being suitably mushy without heading into ‘get over it’ territory, and combining enough genuine laughs to leave a pleasant, sweet taste in your mouth. Director Peter Chelsom throws in a number of interesting shots to give the mix a little more spice, and the two leads manage quite a good on-screen chemistry – surprisingly good considering comments made in the supplemental features on this disc. Adding to this basic mix are some absolutely brilliant performances from the supporting cast – Jeremy Piven as Jonathan’s long-time friend Dean and Molly Shannon as Sara’s equivalent in particular lend much humour to proceedings, however it is the few brief, but ever-so memorable, appearances from deadpan comic genius Eugene Levy as a stickler-for-order sales clerk that just about steal the entire show.

  Video
Contract

Well, it’s definitely got to be more than a happy accident that Serendipity looks so utterly amazing. There really isn’t a lot that can be said, simply imagine all the good things you’ve read about transfers in the past and apply them to this anamorphically enhanced, 1.85:1 delight. Colour – brilliant; clarity – superb; shadow detail, lack of aliasing and other nasties – just fabulous. In regards to the latter, not a single unintended visual intruder is to be seen throughout, which is even more impressive considering the amount of slow motion and fast motion fiddling that’s been done throughout – but then, it all goes horribly wrong when…

...the one thing which makes an otherwise near-as-dammit perfect transfer plummet in the ratings rears its hideous head – easily THE most ham-fisted and downright carelessly moronic placement of a layer change EVER borne witness to by this reviewer. Honestly, the noodle-nut who is responsible for this shouldn’t just be shot; they should have the common decency to want to do it themselves for being so ridiculously stupid! I had to “rewind” the disc a dozen times before it sunk in that it was really there – but yes, there’s the layer change plopped right in the middle of a line of dialogue, actually rendering a couple of words of a relatively important sentence inaudible. All that can be said is thank heaven for subtitles so we know what’s going on, as this is truly, truly appallingly shoddy, and how it passed quality control will obviously be an eternal mystery. Whoever was responsible for this, you – and you alone – stopped this video transfer from scoring a ten – and may we suggest a change of career as well? This DVD encoding caper is obviously a mite too challenging for you - unless you're the same person who did the rest of it, in which case, umm - just be more careful with the layer changes in future, OK?

  Audio
Contract

As with most recent films, Serendipity comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack lavished upon it – in fact there’s an English one, and an Italian one if you feel like practicing to make your own Leggos ad. As with most films of this style, it probably isn’t that necessary to have a six-channel mix, but we’re certainly never going to complain about the presence of such things. No greatly noticeable exercise is given to either the rears or the subwoofwoof, although the ambience that emerges from behind you is wonderfully done – often so subtly you don’t consciously notice it – but turn it off and you can definitely hear the difference. All is nicely distinct (except for the words obliterated by the dunderheaded layer change, of course) and beautifully synched, there’s some nice use of stereo in the front of the room, and, well – in all it’s a decently executed example of one of those soundtracks that sounds perfectly fine, but one which won’t have your neighbours manically baking napalm cookies for you and then spiking your daily milk delivery with Iocaine powder. So that’s probably a good thing come to think of it… unless, of course, you’ve built up an immunity to Iocaine powder, in which case – oops, umm, wrong review…

So, the score comes from Alan Silvestri, and as such there’s more agitating noodle jazz on hand than in an entire season of Seinfeld. Oh well, you can’t win them all... To help ease the pain, on the side of good is an Annie Lennox track, plus appearances from the great Louis Armstrong, Nick Drake (RIP) and those rather fab Brits Mint Royale with their groovy (but not nearly as groovy as the swoonsome Don’t Falter) From Rusholme With Love.

  Extras
Contract

Serendipity comes resplendent with some of the most eye-catching and simply beautiful menu animations you’re ever likely to see, with a veritable winter wonderland of multi-layered snowflakes fluttering about. That is, as long as you set your DVD player to 16x9 output, as if it’s set for a normal telly it stutters, judders and clunks along more than Morris Minor and the Majors touring the B&B’s of northern England for the umpteenth time. This isn’t to say it will necessarily behave this way on all players, however my trusty Pioneer review unit is hardly obscure, so it would be fair to think that some testing for compatibility would be done before things like this are released to the market. Hippety-hoppety skippety-ness aside, the cursors also fail to line up properly when not in 16x9, however you should be able to find your way around with a little patience. Continuing in the shoddy presentation department, there are actually quite a few more extras included than mentioned on the disc’s packaging, as a couple of menus have a little snowflake which leads to more bits and pieces when selected. Grumbles aside, in all there’s a fairly substantial and quite pleasing array of bonus goodies to get stuck into...

Audio Commentary – Director Peter Chelsom: Chelsom delves into his creation with quite some keenness, and has much to impart in regards to the actors, chemistry (or a lack thereof) between his two leads and general trivia about the production. Most pleasing of all for some of us, however, is the impression that John Cusack really is a lovely guy - swoon! Whilst this won’t win any awards for excitement value, if you do sit through it then you’re guaranteed to learn a lot about how Serendipity was brought into the world, as well as having many of the improvised lines pointed out to you.

Deleted Scenes: This is a collection of nine excisions/alternate takes, all of which are generally quite brief. In a non-enhanced ratio of 1.85:1, with DD 2.0 sound and only half-decent visual quality, they all feature an option to have a Chelsom commentary, and there’s the most welcome option to play them all in one go. There isn’t too much to get excited about here, but it’s worth a look nonetheless.

Featurette - Starz/Encore "On The Set": This is a decent 20 minute puff piece featuring the usual collection of cast and crew interviews, film footage and behind the scenes peeks. One advantage of this particular one, however, is that it actually manages to avoid being as gosh-darned annoying as many of its peers, mainly because it actually has a tendency to be interesting and even quite infectious.

Photo Gallery: This is a remarkably thorough collection of promotional shots and on-set snaps, some colour and some black and white, numbering 128 in all.

Storyboard Comparison: Incredibly brief at just 44 seconds, this features sketches of the driving range scene, with the actual finished film playing in a box down at the bottom right of the screen.

Peter Chelsom’s On-Set Diary: Now this is the type of thing we like to see, Chelsom’s complete diary is here to wade through frame by frame by frame by frame by frame... Broken into production days, fans of the film or anybody interested in the workings of making a film should enjoy trudging through this often enlightening extra.

Theatrical trailer: It’s just a pretty standard trailer in full frame, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio and in OK shape.

  Overall  
Contract

If you can put aside the dreadful lack of quality control Serendipity has suffered in its transition to DVD, what you’re left with is an engaging and often incredibly sweet romantic comedy that really does it right, by balancing romance and comedy almost perfectly. Some may argue that the lack of fidelity shown by the two main characters is somewhat unpalatable – which it is if you analyse it too closely – however perhaps sadly this has been a staple of romance films since the days when ‘damn’ was considered a very naughty word by more than just the most wowseriest of wowsers.

Oh John, if you’re reading this, you reckon that Kate chick’s hot? Honey, you haven’t met me yet – and just think, being rather tall yourself you won’t have to break your back bending down to sweep me off my feet... Hey, a gal can dream!


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1750
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      And I quote...
    "An engaging and often incredibly sweet romantic comedy that really does it right as a film - it's a shame about the layer change then..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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