Warner Bros./Warner Home Video .
R4 . COLOR . 92 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Steve Martin movies can be a challenge. For every The Man With Two Brains or L.A. Story there’s a misfired hatchet job of a flick which leaves a taste oopier than that of a Brussels sprouts flavoured icy pole lingering way too long. Sadly, these are too numerous to list here.
Then there are the so-so ones. There’s nothing bad, nothing particularly offensive, but also nothing particularly engaging or, indeed, funny. 1990’s My Blue Heaven lands with a mighty plop in this category, a tale which is based (rather loosely it would seem) on the life of renowned dodgy-type Henry Hill (see Goodfellas - literally if you haven’t) after he entered the FBI’s witness protection program.
Finger goes up... finger goes down...
Steve Martin is Vinnie Antonelli, a middle-tier New York shonky type with serious gravity-defying hair who’d rather rat on his cronies than become acquainted with life in the big house. He’s been spirited away to the middle of nowhere – the ultra-suburban San Diego town of Fryburg - under the care of stiff-as-a-board FBI guy Barney Coopersmith (Rick Moranis). Vinnie (or ‘Tod’ as he’s now supposed to be known) has a hard time dealing with this enforced culture shock (unlike his wife, who just hoofs it as soon as they get there), until he starts running into many of his old buddies - it seems Fryburg’s a popular place for witness relocation. Old habits seemingly die hard, and the Vinster starts getting involved in the odd dodgy caper or two, hardly lying low enough to avoid a local DA (Joan Cusack) getting on his case, leaving Barney fruitlessly trying to keep his charge in check – let alone alive enough to testify.
Cue the odd love story here and there, way too much time doing the merengue (that’s a dance, not a crucial part of a pavlova), some cute kids, a spot of redemption, some un-stiffening of Barney, that inexplicably popular U.S. pastime of baseball and all the usual kinda stuff that congeals together to make your typical nothing flick and you’ve got My Blue Heaven. While there are no great chuckles and more than the odd flat spot, Martin’s initially annoying character tends to ingratiate himself upon the viewer, bouncing off Moranis like a rubber ball and making the most of what is really a barely realised script by Nora Ephron, she who foisted You’ve Got Mail and other schmaltzy travesties upon us later on in her career.
First, the good news. While Region 1 only has the option of picking this up in pan and scan format, we receive a 16:9-enhanced, 1.78:1 transfer. It delivers some wonderfully vivid colouring and is OK in the detail stakes.
As for the bad news, there’s more shimmer going on in the transfer department than there is merenguing in the movie. Static things shimmer, moving things shimmer, and the many optical title cards which appear throughout – much in the style of silent-era films – have wobbles and shakes as if they’ve just had a decidedly hard night on the turps.
It’s not a horrid transfer, just not a great one, especially in comparison to some of the wonderful things Warner have delivered elsewhere lately in their budget-budget range with which this release shares space.
Dolby Digital stereo is the order of the day, and whilst offering nothing amazing in the sonic scheme of things, it does everything it needs to do, by delivering the dialogue cleanly and clearly. Ira Newborn’s score tends towards the very annoying at times, whilst the odd track from the Beach Boys, Tony Bennett and Fats Domino’s titular ditty pop up here and there.
Sadly it seems they’ve already been fenced.
If you’re a fan of this brand of Steve Martin stuff then you can hardly go wrong with this hyper-affordable release, despite so-so audio and video transfers. Still, this air of “whatever” is kind of in keeping with the film, so there’s an aptness at play that we won’t bother messing with.
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "