Friday, July 1, 2011

Four Weddings and a Funeral: Good observational humor

Four Weddings and a Funeral (comedy, romance, drama)
Directed by Mike Newell
Starring Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, Simon Callow and James Fleet

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer | 1994 | 117 min | Rated R | Released Jan 11, 2011

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French, Italian, Spanish: DTS 5.1
Polish, Portuguese, Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0

English SDH, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, French, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish

Single 50GB Blu-ray Disc

The Film 3.5/5

Four Weddings and a Funeral was released in 1994 and was a breakout role for Hugh Grant. If you have seen Notting Hill, Love Actually or the Bridget Jones movies, you’ll know that Grant plays similar characters in every movie. Writer Richard Curtis wrote all of those screenplays and understands what Grant can do. He typically plays eloquent characters who are a bit confused about what they want in life. He has great comic timing and plays his roles with a lot of charm.

The movie opens with Charles (Grant) late for a wedding. We see him dash around with his flatmate, Scarlett, and drive like a maniac to reach the church on time. He’s the best man, but he’s forgotten to bring the rings. This opening sequence is pretty funny and sets the scene well.

Almost all of the action takes place at the four weddings and the funeral mentioned in the title. We are introduced to Charles and his friends, and they appear at every wedding. Tom (Fleet) is one of the richest men in Britain, but is clueless about women and doesn’t have a girlfriend. He’s amusing and harmless and reminds me of Colin Firth’s character in Love Actually. Gareth embraces life and throws himself into any situation without stopping to worry whether he’s making a fool of himself, while Matthew is his lover.

The story is full of good observations about human behavior. If you have ever been to a wedding, you’ll recognize the types of character portrayed in the movie. Some are there because they genuinely want to be, but others tag along as an excuse to get drunk or to seek romantic partners of their own. Some are touching and others are embarrassing or annoying.

At the first wedding, Charles encounters Carrie (MacDowell). He likes her instantly and changes his plans so that he stays at the same inn. They have a romantic moment, but it quickly ends when Carrie announces that she has to return to America.

The rest of the movie shows meetings between Charles and Carrie at each of the weddings. Their situations change each time, but it’s clear that they like each other. Charles runs into previous girlfriends continually, but considers marriage as something to be avoided for the most part. In contrast, Gareth thinks marriage is a good way to get out of a boring conversation.

Charles has a brother, David, who is deaf and communicates through sign language. That sets up a few of the funnier scenes when Charles lies about what David is saying. Another interesting character is Father Gerald; a young priest played by Rowan Atkinson. Most American viewers will know him as Mr. Bean, but he’s appeared in numerous movies of this type as well as Blackadder, which was a TV series also written by Curtis. Father Gerald isn’t a very good priest, but he’ll probably make you laugh.

The movie succeeds because the characters are believable and similar to people we have encountered in our own lives. It’s easy to identify with the main characters because the story rings true. It’s above average in terms of romantic comedies and also works as pure comedy. Even if you don’t care about Charles and Carrie, there’s plenty to smile at. I wouldn’t rate Four Weddings and a Funeral up there with Love Actually, but it’s worth seeing.

Video Quality 3.5/5
Unless you bought Target’s exclusive version in January, this is the first time you’ll have had the chance to see Four Weddings and a Funeral on Blu-ray. The result is a clear upgrade, as you would expect, but it’s not a stellar transfer by any means. The movie is plagued with minor scratches and dirt throughout the 118 minutes. The image is soft at times and clarity never threatens to dazzle the viewer. Colors are accurate, but a little subdued. I briefly considered a 3/5 rating, but I think most of the presentation deserves the extra half point. Fans of the movie should buy it, but temper expectations.

Audio Quality 4/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is more than adequate, but this isn’t the kind of movie that makes full use of sound. It consists of dialogue-driven scenes for the most part, although the surrounds do add depth in the wedding reception scenes. I thought I detected minor sync issues in a couple of places, but they were brief.

Special Features 3/5

The special features are all presented in standard definition and were included on the DVD version of the movie.

Commentary with Director Mike Newell, Producer Duncan Kenworthy and Writer Richard Curtis.

In the Making (7:45)

The Wedding Planners (29:48) – A longer look at how the movie was made.

Two Actors and a Director (5:41) – Explaining how Grant and MacDowell were chosen for the lead roles.

Deleted Scenes (4:02) – Six brief scenes.

Promotional Spots (3:26)

Theatrical Trailer (2:08)

Four Weddings and a Funeral is a lot of fun, and works well for fans of British humor. Grant and MacDowell play their roles well. The Blu-ray offers a reasonable upgrade and is worth adding to your collection if you’re a fan of the movie or if you like romantic comedies. The price is very attractive at the moment and is readily available for under $12. The best price at the time of writing is $8.49 at Barnes & Noble. 

Overall score 3.5/5 

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  1. Thanks for writing about this one. I was curious to know how good the video quality is on the Blu-ray release before I bothered to buy it. Although not perfect, it is inexpensive to upgrade, so I might go ahead anyway.

  2. Yep, it's hard to argue with $8.49. Barnes & Noble also has a 15% coupon at the moment (for non-members too).

    The code is L7C8F9D. Good until July 13.