I agree with film critic and historian Leonard Maltin, It’s hard to find a well-executed romantic comedy these days. Matlin says as much before he introduces the singular force that is Cher before a 2013 American Film Institute screening of Director Norman Jewison’s 1987 film “Moonstruck,” video of which is included in a brand new blu-ray edition of the film from The Criterion Collection. I have to admit I had never seen “Moonstruck” till the new blu-ray arrived in the mail, but what an absolute delight and treat it was to see the movie.
“Moonstruck” is lead by the aforementioned Cher, alongside Nicholas Cage, Danny Aiello, and the great Olympia Dukakis. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, bringing home three of them. One for Cher, One for Dukakis, and one for the screenplay by John Patrick Shanley. A full moon shines over New York City and casts a spell over Loretta, a somewhat content bookkeeper who has just become engaged to her boyfriend, Johnny.
Johnny has a brother, Ronny, who he has been estranged for several years. Johnny would like to have Ronny at his wedding, but their mother is dying in Italy and Johnny is on his way to be with her. So, Johnny asks Loretta to call Ronny and see if she can make him come to their wedding. Ronny, however, is a hot-blooded baker who has a large amount of animosity towards his brother.
But sometimes strange things happen. Sometimes we find our heart telling us things we didn’t think we needed to hear. As Loretta finds herself talking with Ronny to get him to warm to the idea of coming to the wedding, she finds herself starting to wonder if she’s marrying the wrong brother. “Moonstruck” may be an old favorite of yours, and if so, you know how the movie works a certain kind of magic over you while you watch it. I went into the movie cold. Not knowing what to expect, but finding myself charmed by the time the film ended. It was the perfect capper to a week that had been hectic, and I smiled as it ended.
Criterion brings “Moonstruck” to blu-ray with a healthy dose of bonus materials, some of which are carried over from previous home video releases of the film. The blu-ray uses a new 4K digital restoration made from the 35mm original camera negative. This transfer looks fantastic! With great color, light grain, and a solid, bright image overall. The color was referenced from a previous HD transfer that Norman Jewison approved and supervised, the new blu-ray looks the way he intended the film to look.
Audio-wise the original Dolby Stereo audio mix has been expanded to a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Music, especially the opera “La Boheme,” plays a large role throughout the movie. The 5.1 mix expands the musical landscape. Opening it up and giving it a wide stage to play in. It sounds natural, not fake or artificial as some expanded 5.1 mixes can sometimes sound like. Frankly, I would have thought the film was mixed in 5.1 from the get-go.
A very wonderful commentary track from 1998 that features Jewison, Cher, and screenwriter Shanley is included, as are video features from a 2006 DVD release of the film. There are also archival TV interviews with the director and cast, most of which are pulled from The Today Show. New materials created just for this Criterion release includes an interview with John Patrick Shanley, and with scholar Stefano Albertini about the use of Opera in the film. Critic Emily VanDerWerff closes out the collection with a wonderful essay no the film.
“Moonstruck” was the best of experiences, taking me completely surprised and leaving me charmed. It’s easy to see why the film was such a hit when it was released in 1987, and why it won the awards that it did. This one comes highly recommended from me, regardless if it’s your longtime favorite movie, or if you’re new to it. See you next week.