Serendipity

January 28, 2012 11 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Call it Sleepless in Seattle for the 21st Century if you will, but there’s something about these movies that always piques my interest. While the lead actors aren’t Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, but John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale; the story is somewhat the same, but the result is something I liked a bit better than the aforementioned Sleepless in Seattle. It all starts when Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale) are both at Bloomindales just 5 days before Christmas. They reach for the same pair of black cashmere gloves (the last pair in the store) and an instant bond is formed. The movie tells us that it was "years earlier", but if you pay attention real close during the movie, you’ll learn that it was 1994. So as Jonathan and Sara experience an evening together drinking coffee and ice-skating, he wants to ask her out, even though they have both told the other that they have a respective girlfriend/boyfriend. Sara is a believer in fate, so after a bit of harassment by Jonathan, she agrees to write her name in a book with her phone number and sell it to a used book store the next day. Conversely, Jonathan writes his name and phone number on the back of a $5 and should it ever return to her hands, she’ll of course call him.

It doesn’t end there, though. As they stand outside the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, she decides to tempt fate one last time. They each get on a different elevator and should they both pick the same floor, then she’ll go out with him. Well, as fate would have it, that doesn’t happen and we flash forward a "few years" only to learn that Sara is now a counselor in San Francisco and Jonathan is engaged to be married in just a few days. The film does show us that no matter how happy the two seem to be without each other, each one of them still has that little thing inside that makes them wonder "What if…" Sara is engaged to a new age musician by the name of Lars (John Corbett). As nice of a guy as he is, there is something inside her that makes Sara want to try and pursue Jonathan. Naturally, Jonathan is getting more and more antsy and relies on the help of his good friend (Jeremy Piven) who just happens to be an obituary writer for the New York Times.

We essentially know that these two will end up together, though I won’t say one way or the other if this actually happens. But the series of near misses and fate rearing it’s head is almost sickening. I mean "sickening" in a good way. Whether it be bumping into Jonathan’s fiancĪ˜ or getting hit in the head by a golf ball from Jonathan’s father, the two keep missing each other by a matter of seconds. It made my teeth grind. This is your typical romantic comedy, but with an edge that I like in some of these movies these days…an edge that says "What if…". Piven and Cusack are once again a great pair and it’s nice to see them still being cast together, they play off one another very well. Beckinsale, who just might be one of the most naturally beautiful actresses to grace the screen in recent years, gives a good performance too. They don’t meet on top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day, but come really close. If you’re in the mood for a great romance with a bit of wit, then Serendipity might just be your cup of tea.

Video: How does it look?

As with most day and date releases from Disney, Serendipity is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that looks great. Again, as with most new movies, it’s hard for them not to look great, but this has moments where you could swear that you’re watching hi-def. A few of the stock footage shots do have a bit of grain in them and some of the outdoor shots look the same, but for the most part this one good-looking transfer. Edge enhancement is non-existent and the black levels are right on target. I suppose that some of the earlier shots tended to appear a bit dark, like the contrast was off, but that might have just been me. What I can say is that you won’t be let down by how this film appears on DVD.

Audio: How does it sound?

With a French and English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, Serendipity is bound to sound almost as good as it looks. Unfortunately for the film, it’s a romantic comedy and they don’t have the most impressive soundtracks. Don’t get me wrong, it does sound good and delivers where it has to, but don’t crank up the volume and try to impress your friends with this one. Some of the surround effects did get my attention, briefly, but for the most part the action is limited to the front channels. Dialogue was clean and clear without any sign of distortion and the general ambiance of the film is well-portrayed by the audio here. Quite frankly, there’s nothing wrong with the track, it just doesn’t stand out in my mind as being memorable.

Supplements: What are the extras?

I’m glad I turned the box over while writing this review as you’ll need to pay attention here. Ok, the menus (cool as they are) are a bit confusing. The menus have snowflakes on them, but when I pressed "Bonus Material" I was taken to a screen with the Deleted Scenes and the feature-length commentary. Ok, no big deal…I watch the deleted scenes and had already listened to the commentary. But to the right of the words, there is a snowflake that you have to press to get to the next screen of special features. These contain the behind the scenes featurette, the Production diary, trailer and the storyboard to film comparison. Maybe it was just me, but I’m used to having all of the features right there in front of me, and I don’t think that you should have to stumble upon them by accident. Ok, anyway…the feature-length commentary is fairly entertaining. Director Peter Chelsom does a solo job here, so there are some gaps in his track, though the movie is only 90 minutes long so there aren’t too many. He offers plenty about the film, what it was like shooting in New York and so on. Not the best track that I’ve heard, but it’s entertaining enough to warrant a listen. Chelsom also adds commentary to the deleted scenes which can be played one by one or all together. Totaling some 15 minutes, the scenes were left out for a reason (and the commentary tells why) and include an alternate opening among them. Next up is a 45 second storyboard to film comparison of the driving range. I’ve never been too much of a fan of these storyboard to film comparisons as it’s not like you learn anything. The movie is drawn out on storyboards and they shoot the film from them, big deal. Still, if this is your cup of tea then you may be let down as it’s under a minute.

A production diary in text form is shown, totaling some fifty odd days of shooting and a few days of re-shoots. Though interesting, I found the text to be kind of small (on my 55 TV) and red is not that great of a color for text to be, especially for twenty some odd pages. But it’s an interesting feature and a nice addition to the disc. A still gallery is also included with some shots from the film. You simply use your remote to scroll past the pictures. An Encore/Starz "On the Set" is a twenty minute featurette that is essentially a behind the scenes look at the making of the movie. Like so many other DVD’s out there, this is the same thing you’ll find on most every disc out there. Not to say that it’s bad or not well made, but if you’ve already watched the film, trailer and some of the other supplements, you’re not getting much new information here. Still, people must like these, because they’re appearing on a number of discs. Lastly, there is a trailer for the film. Presented in full-frame it actually has some of the deleted scenes in it, instead of what actually appeared in the movie. Some "Sneak Peeks" have trailers for Bounce, the Soundtrack to Serendipity and a soap opera network (I wonder who they’re marketing to)? In summary, I rather enjoyed the film and the supplements might not seem like much, but will provide the viewer with plenty of information about the movie, cast and crew. If you’re a fan of movies like Sleepless in Seattle or Sliding Doors, then you might be fated to see this movie.

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