Length: 107 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p
Languages: English, French, Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
My first exposure to Cyrano de Bergerac, the 19th-century play by the French poet and dramatist Edmond Rostand, came via the Classics Illustrated comic book version which I read when I was a boy. Rostand’s play is based upon the life of a 17th-century duelist, poet and philosopher who was blessed with a sharp wit and a mastery of language, but who considered himself to be disfigured because of his prodigious nose. Rostand’s Cyrano is in love with his cousin, Roxane, but she has eyes only for a soldier named Christian de Neuvillette. My recollection is that Classics Illustrated emphasized the swashbuckling aspects of the story, although it may have been that I was too young to appreciate that it is really a tale of unrequited love. The comic book was first published in January, 1951, two months after the Stanley Kramer-produced film version starring Jose Ferrer was released. Numerous other film and television incarnations of the play have appeared over the years.
More than twenty years ago Steve Martin decided to update Rostand’s play. The result is Roxanne, a very enjoyable romantic comedy which has now been released on Blu-ray by Sony. Martin wrote the screenplay and stars as C.D. Bales, the fire chief of Nelson, a small ski town in the state of Washington. C.D. is liked and admired by the people of Nelson, but he is notoriously short-tempered when it comes to comments about his most noticeable physical characteristic, an extraordinarily large snout. One evening C.D. comes to the rescue of Roxanne Kowalski (Daryl Hannah), an astronomy student who has rented a house in Nelson for the summer. C.D. is immediately smitten with Roxanne, but she is attracted to the newest firefighter in town, a hunk named Chris McConnell (Rick Rossovich). However, Chris has a problem – he is so shy and insecure that the very thought of speaking with Roxanne makes him sick to his stomach. When he finds that even writing a letter to Roxanne is beyond his capabilities, he asks C.D. to write the letter for him. C.D., on the other hand, has no difficulty in expressing himself, but he is convinced that his enormous nose will always prevent him from finding love. C.D. ghostwrites such eloquent and moving prose that Roxanne immediately falls head over heels for Chris. The problem, of course, is that the time is going to come when Chris will have to speak for himself.
What could have become a schmaltzy love story is instead both humorous and tender. The romance is counter-balanced with witty dialogue and some funny slapstick involving the mostly inept volunteer fire department which C.D. is trying to whip into shape. Martin’s performance – which includes some excellent physical comedy - really carries this film, although he is ably supported by Hannah and Rossovich. Fine supporting performances are turned in by Shelley Duvall and Fred Willard. Kevin Nealon also has a small role, in his first feature film appearance.
The 2.40:1 1080p transfer is not reference-quality, but it is still very satisfying. The image is a bit on the soft side, which appears to be a characteristic of the original film elements. A moderate amount of film grain is evident in some scenes, but is scarcely noticeable in others. Thankfully, DNR and edge enhancement appear to be non-existent. The color palette is pleasing and the exterior scenes, which were filmed in Nelson, British Columbia, do a nice job of showing off the attributes of the town. The green trees of the forest, the blue mountain sky, and the bright red of the town’s fire truck are depicted accurately and without bleeding. Shadow detail is somewhat lacking in the nighttime scenes, although nothing of significance is hidden.
The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is very good. As noted, Roxanne is a romantic comedy, so there is not much here to tax your sound system. The surround channels are used primarily and effectively for ambient sounds during interior scenes. The music soundtrack really comes to life, with excellent separation and dimensionality. The dialogue is clear and intelligible throughout.
Unfortunately, this Blu-ray release is devoid of supplements other than trailers for Made of Honor and The Pink Panther. The disc also offers BD-Live functionality.
The disc is secured in a standard Blu-ray keepcase.
The Final Analysis
Roxanne is a must for fans of Steve Martin, and it remains one of his finest film performances. The lack of any meaningful extras may be a sticking point for some, but the film is as enjoyable today and when I saw it in a theater 22 years ago.
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Sharp LC-42D62U LCD display
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable
Release Date: Available Now (released May 5, 2009)