Studio: Paramount Pictures
US Rating: PG-13 For Some Sexual Reference
Film Length: 111 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition 1.85:1
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish and French 5.1 (Dolby Digital)
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish
US Release Date: December 30, 2008
Review Date: December 30, 2008
The Show - out of
Films like Last Holiday often stumble out of the gate with the happy ending in mind from the get go. Such films unfold the all too familiar Romantic comedy tenets that drive themselves like a spear into the air, feverishly and rather impatiently working to reach that happy ending, the climactic moment when true love is realized. And in those moments, the good are rewarded and the bad suffer the consequences of their often exaggerated misdeeds. Last Holiday could very well have been one of those movies.
In her first true lead starring role, Queen Latifah plays Georgia Byrd, a single department store employee working in the cookware department as a demonstrator. Her life is simple and unsatisfying and she spends her time dreaming of life’s possibilities. But dreaming is all she does until, one day she finds out that she only has three weeks to live. With the sad news of her last few weeks, Georgia sets about to finish out her life with the passion, excitement, adventure and genuine discovery she never quite got to when she thought she had all the time in the world. Georgia’s journey takes her to the Czech Republic and to the grand hotel of the famous Chef Didier, of whom she greatly admires. Here, through a series of chance encounters, comedic turns of events and the conniving acts of the films smug and tyrant caricature (Kragen), she finds herself genuinely living a wild and exciting life.
Last Holiday is quite the surprise; a love story that manages to win us completely over by the talents of Queen Latifah. Ordinarily, the trappings of a film like this would tire even the most accepting of lite films. But something actually works here. What should cause us to role our eyes brings a smile and what should seem tired and well trodden, seems far newer and warming.
The love interest in Last Holiday is Sean Matthews played by LL Cool J in an endearing and understated performance. The chemistry between LL and Latifah is tangible and serves the story wonderfully. But in the end, the strength of Last Holiday comes from the wonderful and endearing performance of Miss Latifah and as the script patiently unfolds the events, honest moments of true drama flow, allowing for a more satisfying comedy and finale.
The rest of the cast ably perform in their familiarly drawn characters. Great French actor Gerard Depardieu, who has a demeanor perfect for comedy, does reasonably well here as the famous chef, as does Alicia Witt as Ms. Burns and Giancarlo Esposito as the sly Senator Dillings. Timothy Hutton as the snooty foe, Matthew Kragen, is amicably irascible and mean, pulling his easy to dislike ‘bad guy’.
Last Holiday seems to work because it begins as a love story and quickly becomes the exploration of what we should all remember, that tomorrow is never promised – and doing so without becoming sickly sweet or pretentious. It gently weaves the love story into the tale of living life while you have it (rather than beating us over the head with it as most other romantic comedies do) and lets us see for ourselves why any man would be lucky to be with the graceful Queen.
A delightful performance by the Queen, genuinely funny and tender moments and being able to walk away feeling just a little bit more grateful for having a today, Last Holiday is a warm treat that you should not deny yourself. I recommend seeing it while you can.
Last Holiday arrives on Blu-Ray with its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 in 1080p High Definition. Colors are warm and bright as you might expect for a romantic comedy, but finer details are missing. The image has noise and appears to have digital noise reduction applied. Whites in the frame are clean and black levels reasonably solid. Generally, this is disappointing for a High Definition release. Flesh tones are a tad muted, but the fussy nature of the image quality will make anyone question an upgrade or, for those wondering if the extra money for the HD version is worth it.
*Update*: Upon second veiwing (and post TV calibration) - Details are far better than originally noted. The look has far more of a natural film grain look, though some noise, especially in sky shots, remains. I have given the image an extra half star. Flesh tones are also richer than originally noted.
Available with an English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD (as well as French and Spanish 5.1 tracks), Last Holiday’s audio is appropriate but without exception. George Fenton’s sweet and playfuol score exists throughout the speakers but the action is mostly focused in the front. There are no distortions to be heard and the center channel delivering the speech is relatively crisp.
Last Holiday: Packing Light – (15:24) – A look at getting the project off the ground and how the creative talents came together to produce the film.
Last Holiday: Last Look – (7:45) – A quick featurette looking at creating the look of the locations, contrasting New Orleans with the Czech Republic.
Last Holiday: 23 Years in the Making – (7:12) – Producer and screenwriters talk about the 23 years it took from the time the film initially made the rounds to its greenlight and making. Based on the 1950 movie starring the great Alec Guinness, the early scripts were written for a make lead. A good decision to change the lead to female.
Deleted Scenes – (2:18) – Two deleted scenes ‘Kick the car’ and ‘Where to Cowboy?’..
Theatrical Trailer – (2:32)
Queen Latifah lifts Last Holiday up with love and laughs in equal measure. It is entirely possible with any other leading lady, Last Holiday would have existed without its genuine charm and that the slippery road this film and other like it perpetually exist upon (these days) would have spun it quickly into a ditch. But as it happens, it succeeds by being simple and sweet and by inducing smiles; by being a truly likeable film with a heartfelt and romantic idea and a great message of seizing the day.