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  Directed by
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  • French: Dolby Digital Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital Surround
  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
    English, French, Spanish, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, French - Hearing Impaired, Spanish - Hearing Impaired


    Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 97 mins . M15+ . PAL


    Even though most of us were normal kids ourselves once (even if some of us were made by trolls living in the compost bin at the end of the garden, or so my mother tells me), there’s no doubt that as eloquent as even the smartest of us were, we were essentially blathering idiots with a limited grasp of the English language.

    In my own case, conversation at the age of eight consisted of music, cartoons, lollies, sport and girls. It stands to reason then that if you want to mimic realistic child conversation in a film, you don’t have any words with more than three syllables, and you don’t try to involve emotions any deeper than “My cricket bat is heaps better than your stupid piece of crap you stupid crap face!”

    If you follow my point, then you’ll understand when I say that we can recognise when a film's dialogue between two young kids just doesn’t ring true. And when a lot of the film relies on the interaction between the two kids it’s an even greater problem in having to suspend disbelief.

    This is the biggest issue thrown up by Paradise. On the face of it the film is simple and enjoyable enough, even if it does deal with the weighty topics of death, grief, marital problems and the effects on children.

    Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith (who were in real life married at the time) play a couple who agree to take care of a child (a bug eyed little Elijah Wood) while his mother tries to deal with her husband leaving her. What she or Elijah don’t know is that Don and Mel are having marital problems of their own since their own child died accidentally.

    Through Elijah they begin a slow course to healing their rift, and Elijah begins to understand his own situation through his friendship with a young girl, Billie (Thora Birch), who neighbours his temporary carers.

    This is the kind of film which usually attracts epithets such as “heartwarming”, "powerful” “moving” and “I boiled my sausages with its schmaltz” from the likes of quote junkie Peter Travers at Rolling Stone, and generally it’s pretty close to the mark if in a slightly predictable and uninspring way. Don and Mel are on the ball as the couple in turmoil, quietly seething and occasionally spitting the rage with a measure of believablility that belies their less than stellar acting credentials (Sonny Crockett was Don Johnson after all, and Melanie, well, what the heck has she done?). Also, this was no doubt good practice for their own acrimonious end to a real marriage so I guess it wears some dubious historical significance in that regard. Or not.

    Where Paradise falls on its preverbial is in the interaction between young Frodo and the girl. They speak openly and eloquently of their feelings and express platitudes that are so beyond their years or ability to express in such a clarified manner that not an iota of their dialogue rings true. It may seem like a small issue to raise, but the significant problem is that it interrupts the flow of the story and temporarily removes you from ‘make believe’ world with a jarring thud that taints the remainder of the film.

    A few points must be taken from the final assesment for this oversight by the scriptwriter and director (both credited to Mary Agnes Donoghue), but if you’re able to look past this point of contention upon a casual viewing and keep things in perspective (this isn’t drama in the Kramer vs Kramer stakes after all), then you’ll find a few heartwarming moments and enough ‘emotional feel-goodness’ to justify your perserverence.


    Set in a coastal town, the weather is more often than not overcast and the picture can never be accused of being ‘bright’, even when the sun occasionally peeks out from behind the clouds. The 1.85:1, 16:9 enhanced picture has a gloomy cast that mutes colours and compresses the blacks giving a flatness to the image and taking a toll on some night scenes. Skin tones are also usually a bit pale, except for Don Johnson who has a perpetual Miami tan, explained away in this film by making him a shrimp boat owner. The print itself is in fair condition, a little low in detail and marred only by a slight peppering of specks in plain view, but they’re bearable.


    This is a typical example of a gabfest that does little to require anything other than its Dolby Digital stereo track, but even then it tends to be mundane. Nothing manages to break free of the boundaries of the speakers, the dialogue anchored firmly in the centre, but the score, manipulative as it is, at least gives it the old college try with stirring and soaring strings designed to make you dab at the eyeballs at the required moments. It’s the moments of rain and wind, or being out at sea on the shrimp boat which make the absence of surrounds more conspicuous, but I can live with it. Oddly, the English track isn’t flagged for surround (as the cover states) even though the Spanish and French tracks are. But even with the English listened to with surround engaged on my amp the results weren’t great and placed some effects in the wrong channels, so it’s clearly not designed for it.


    Whoa! This DVD is positively packed to the gills! Where do I start? Okay, first up, there’s a thing called a ‘menu’, from which you can do all kids of cool stuff like access the film or select specific pre-determined points in the film to jump to (these are called ‘chapters’, although this disc calls them ‘Story Selection’, so it’s even more technologically confusing than usual) and you can even setup the language and subtitle options if you speak in some wacky foreign tongue! I couldn’t find Australian in there, so I chose English, which seemed to give roughly the same result. Fascinating, cutting edge stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.


    Paradise is an unashamed tear jerker made to elicit an emotional response from easily manipulated sooky-lalas. I’m hardly what you’d call a ‘sooky-lala’, but I’m no monster, so it did ‘move’ me from time to time. Maybe I have emotional problems or something, or I’m just getting old, but in the past I’d usually scoff at such sentiments and chide others for being so easily led.

    However, what really astounded me is that Johnson and Griffiths are actually good! Seriously, I kept expecting a Sonny Crockett moment, with exaggerated displays of emotion and such, but (gladly) it never came. They play off each other quietly and mostly believably, which unfortunately made the awkward interplay between Birch and Wood even more unrealistic.

    As a film-only package with an ordinary audio and video transfer, only Frodo-geeks should seek this out for their shrines.

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      And I quote...
    "Paradise is an unashamed tear jerker made to elicit an emotional response from easily manipulated sooky-lalas."
    - Vince Carrozza
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS730P
    • TV:
          Philips 55PP8620
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB1070
    • Speakers:
          Wharfedale s500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Polk Audio CS245
    • Surrounds:
          Wharfedale WH-2
    • Subwoofer:
          DB Dynamics TITAN
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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