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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: The Accidental Tourist

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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

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Posted January 07 2004 - 05:06 AM

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The Accidental Tourist

Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1988
Rated: PG
Film Length: 121 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD Surround
Color/B&W: Color
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $19.97
Package: Snap Case

The Feature:
The Accidental Tourist is the story of a somewhat introverted man, Macon Leary (played by Academy Award winner William Hurt) who’s at a point in his life caught up at the crossroads of life’s transitional period. He’s a rather idiosyncratic fellow who has never ventured past the point of excitement, living life as conservatively as possible. Though he is married to Sarah (played by Kathleen Turner) and seems “contently satisfied”, they have recently lost their only son who was murdered in a botched robbery. As a result, their link to a common bond has been shattered and their marriage is fragile.

Macon is a writer who (prior to Zagat’s notoriety) writes travel guides entitled “The Accidental Tourist”. These are brief dos and don’ts on what to do when traveling and how best to prepare for such trips. Ironically, Macon himself doesn’t like to travel but he seems to follow his own advice and interestingly enough, we hear him throughout the film, offering travel advice that strangely seems to relate to his personal life.

Unable to cope with the death of their son, Sarah makes it quite clear that she feels the marriage is over and that she would be moving out. Macon is devastated but accepts the news. While heading out for a business trip, he discovers his regular kennel is unable to care for his dog during his trip, but he discovers a different kennel and decides to stop to see if they can watch his dog while he is away. It is there he discovers Muriel Pritchett (played by Geena Davis). She is a whimsical but odd young woman who seems to have taken a very quick liking to the uninterested customer.

Through a series of flashbacks, we learn the dog is really the only thing Macon has left to connect him to the past and his late son. The dog winds up biting someone but Macon can’t bring himself to part with him, so he decides to hire Muriel to help him train the dog and this eventually leads to a relationship between the two. Muriel has a young and somewhat troubled son who forms an instant bond with her mom’s new boyfriend.

Eventually, Sarah calls Macon and decides that she wants to give the marriage another try and Macon swiftly agrees. During a business trip to France, Macon discovers Muriel is on the same flight. After their arrival in Paris, his attempts to ignore Muriel are futile and they ultimately go out to dinner (Burger King no less). Sarah decides to surprise Macon and flies to Paris to be with her husband. Upon her arrival, she runs into Muriel and is left wondering if the meeting was chance or whether it was planned. Confronted by what will no doubt be the biggest decision in Macon’s life, he must decide whether to stay in a life of contentment or to take a chance and cross over to a new life with a new beginning.

Rounding out the other stars are Ed Begley Jr. and David Ogden Stiers who play Macon’s brothers, Charles and Porter and finally Julian, who is Macon’s publisher, played by Bill Pullman.

It had been many years since I’d seen this movie and I had forgotten much of it. The film and its writers were nominated for Academy Awards as were Geena Davis for Best Supporting Actress and John Williams for his beautiful score. Only Geena Davis was victorious. The Best Picture statue went to Rainman and the Best Music Original Score went to Dave Grusin for his work on The Milagro Beanfield War. Personally, I felt Hans Zimmer should have captured the award for his work on Rainman which still happens to be one of my favorite movie scores.

I find movies from the 70’s and the 80’s to be the most inconsistent in terms of what to expect from a video standpoint. And I often equate film to cars for this period in that the late 70’s and much of the 80’s wasn’t a period for some of our finest automobile moments. Having said that however, the film (and I hate to use this expression) has a slight 80’s look to it but I was pretty impressed with this transfer.

I watched the trailer first (as I always do if it’s included) and it looked downright soft, however, when the film started, I was pretty impressed. I will say that much of the film has a softer appearance to it but after seeing some of the close-up shots (which were very detailed) I’m confident that’s how it was shot. There are quite a few scenes which do exhibit great detail.

Colors were just as interesting. This is another film that relies heavy on scene contrasting. Much of the film is shot darker than usual and there were several scenes which relied on various lighting techniques to send a particular message. The colors, though nicely saturated, were somewhat muted with a feel of warmth to them. Skin tones appeared to be accurate although there were a couple of scenes where they took on a reddish appearance.

As for edge enhancement, there were a number of scenes which were shot outdoors upon a bright backdrop and I never observed any halo effects. As for film dirt or scratches, the transfer appears as clean as one would hope for. Film grain is virtually non-existent.

Very impressive – nice job..!

The track offered up here is a DD Surround track which does a much better job than I anticipated. As you can imagine, the film is dialogue driven, so don’t expect any chases or explosions, but the dialogue is rock solid and always as clear as imaginable.

This film has an Academy Award nominated score by John Williams which is beautifully gentle and poignant and is played quite frequently to accompany the film. The dialogue always remained clear and was never muddied as a result.

There was a decent amount of directionality displayed with doors closing and ambient noises from other rooms etc. As for the surround use, while it was used primarily for music filler, there were a few proverbial rainstorms and jet fly-overs to add to the effect. Not earth shattering but tastefully done.

As for noise or hiss, the track was crystal clear and free of anything bothersome.

A very solid DD Surround track that does what it’s supposed to..!!

Special Features:
There are a few interesting special features starting with:
[*] An Introduction by Lawrence Kasdan. Mr. Kasdan does a great job discussing his time spent with novelist Anne Tyler and the locations that were used in the Baltimore area for the shoot. Short but informative. Duration: 3:16 minutes.
[*] A Commentary by Geena Davis is limited in that she is not featured throughout the entire film and scenes are fast forwarded during her participation for a total duration of 38:20 minutes. Not sure why her participation was so limited but the flow is very disruptive in the method of fast forwarding these scenes. Surely, enough could have been discussed in a two hour period…? Geena is rather interesting and offers up a decent amount of tidbits although towards the end it veers off focusing in on her Academy Award experience. All in all, it’s rather interesting.
[*] It’s Like Life is a short featurette with interviews of Kasdan, Davis and Turner shot back in 1988 who discuss the film and discuss their involvement and how it came together. Though dated, this is the best of the features. Duration: 13:04 minutes.
[*] There are 13 Lifted Scenes. Each starts with a brief narrative introducing the clip. They are: Driving in the rain, Macon talks to rose, Julian calls Macon, Meeting in a restaurant, Macon and Muriel reconnect, Rose slow-cooks the turkey, Muriel and Macon train Edward, Macon makes breakfast, Macon and Porter find a broken pipe, Macon’s mother, Alicia hugs Julian, Muriel and Macon talk in bed and Dominick babysits Alexander.
[*] Lastly, the Theatrical Trailer is included and is in reasonably good shape although has not seen any restoration work.

Final Thoughts:
This is not a film for everyone. The pace is slow and deliberate but it allows us to absorb some of the emotion elicited by the loss of their son. It’s a story that’s told about “any man” who, while dealing with life’s toughest stressor, must finally make a decision about his own future.

This package was a nice surprise and the A/V presentations exceeded my expectations. They’re not perfect but I’m confident they’ll satisfy the fans of this film.


Release Date: January 20th, 2004
My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 12 OFFLINE   Ted Lee

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Posted January 07 2004 - 05:17 AM

i would classify this as one of my guilty pleasures. it's just a wonderful performance by hurt. you get a real sense of angst watching him interact with the other characters. admittedly, i'm not sure i would buy this myself, but it is absolutely worth a rental.

#3 of 12 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted January 07 2004 - 08:28 AM

Always wanted to see this, but for some reason never got around to it. Glad to see it's made its way to a good dvd. I'll have to give it a spin.

#4 of 12 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted January 07 2004 - 09:06 AM

Herb, Great review as always and I'm definitely buying this dvd since I like this film very much. I thought I read where Geena Davis gave birth to a set of twins just a little while ago and since she's in her mid-40's, maybe her medical condition is the reason why her commentary was restricted in length. Edit: Did a little research and discovered that Davis isn't due until the spring with the twins so that's probably not the reason why her commentary was restricted. Crawdaddy

#5 of 12 OFFLINE   Paul_Scott


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Posted January 07 2004 - 09:18 AM

a couple thoughts about TAT. back when Columbia House used to run a Laserdisc club, i would buy this title more than a couple times since it was one of the lowest priced fulfillment titles i could find. i'd watch it and think "this movie is GREAT!", but invariably i'd sell off the disc for credit to apply to some newer blockbuster that had just come out, and then, like clockwork i would get the urge to see it again about 6 months later and re-order it as a fulfillment. i sold it off one last time, and after that my LD player got less and less use. I can't wait to see this movie again. the other thing is, the LD while generally good, suffered a big problem common to that medium- noisy reds. at a couple points in the film (mary kay places?) red sweater looks alive it moves and sizzles so much. it will be great to over that. i remember Gene Siskel said something about this film that i've found to be true (for me at least). when a film goes quiet, or is primarily quiet, for some reason, i get pulled more into it and lean forward hoping to not miss anything. yeah, its a slow paced film fairly soft spoken movie. it appears still on the surface but runs deep. the difficulty of moving out of your comfort zone...especially as you get older and more conservative is such a universal condition. i could gush about the movie all day. its one of those rare ones for the adults, and it can't come soon enough.

#6 of 12 OFFLINE   Mikel_Cooperman



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Posted January 07 2004 - 10:46 AM

Very good movie I just wish Kasdan would do a commentary on his other film The Big Chill. Wheres Hurt on this commentary???

#7 of 12 OFFLINE   Alistair_M


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Posted January 07 2004 - 12:15 PM

Great film.

I'm really looking forward to seeing the deleted scenes - apparently then run for almost 40 minutes!

Well done Warner Bros on another good release of a catalogue title. Posted Image

#8 of 12 OFFLINE   Erin C

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Posted January 07 2004 - 05:36 PM

I finally get to see this! I hope I like it as much as I love Big Chill,Silverado and Grand Canyon.

#9 of 12 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted January 10 2004 - 09:58 AM

The movie received great acclaim when it came out in 1988 and even got a nomination for the Best Picture Oscar - why would you consider it to be a guilty pleasure? That's usually reserved for movies you know aren't really very good but you enjoy anyway - Tourist is a high-quality production across the board.
Colin Jacobson

#10 of 12 OFFLINE   Douglas R

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Posted January 16 2004 - 09:29 PM

Just received the DVD of this wonderful film but why does Warner Bros have to advertise it as if it is a comedy? It has some gently humurous moments but is essentially a drama. The DVD has a quote on the front cover "Astonishing Irresistibly Funny" and on the back cover the synopsis refers to "This funny.....film". Do studios think that purchasers won't buy if they say it's a drama?

#11 of 12 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted January 16 2004 - 09:43 PM

IIRC, when it came to theaters the commercials on TV also marketed it as a comedy. Whatever. Posted Image

Definately a must-buy for me!
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#12 of 12 OFFLINE   SteveGon


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Posted January 17 2004 - 01:45 AM

Great review, Herb. Posted Image

This is a must-have release for me.

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