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The Beautician and the Beast

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 107 minutes

Starring: Fran Drescher, Timothy Dalton, Lisa Jakub, Ian McNeice, Patrick Malahide

Written by: Todd Graff

Directed by: Ken Kwapis

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $19.99

Features: Audio Commentary with Fran Drescher

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Stereo Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (34 Scenes)

Released: June 24th, 2003

 

 

Hairdresser Joy Miller (Fran Drescher) is a pretty lonely gal. She has an independent streak, is looking to do something more with her life and of course, wants a man to settle down with. She teaches what she knows best (hairdressing obviously). But after a fire in the classroom she's in, Joy helps save her students and saves the animal in the classroom. With newfound publicity, she is recruited to teach in the fictional eastern European country Slovetzia. Her job is to teach the children of the country's dictator, that being Boris Pochenko (Timothy Dalton). Of course, there's a problem. She's really been hired to teach science, but she thinks she's been hired as a beautician. Naturally, this leads to sparks and confrontations between the hairdresser and the dictator. Oh, and the dictator is single too (he's a widow!). Joy's impact is soon felt in Slovetzia... and perhaps in poor Pochenko?

Yeah, you all know what's going to happen here. Strict man, sweet woman. Mistaken identities. Things change. "The Beautician and the Beast" is pretty much your standard romantic comedy. And that's exactly what it should be taken for, instead of being bashed as something that people expect or have seen in some respect before (which are reasons I'm sure why people gleefully ripped this movie and didn't really embrace it). The film is certainly far-fetched, ridiculous and pretty silly. But that's all part of the fun. This movie is supposed to be a modern fairy tale of sorts with its own weird quirks. And it succeeds at doing that.

Todd Graff wrote the script, and at times it feels like a sitcom (almost a re-imagined dream sequences from "The Nanny"!). His script is really predictable and incredibly formulatic. There's the usual build-up, introductions, confusions, love-hate romantic interludes... you can pretty much connect the dots on this one. You can fall asleep during the movie and wake up and you can probably fill in your own details and they'll probably be right. Still, this doesn't mean his script is lousy because it isn't. If you like romantic comedies, you'll probably dig it even if it's really nothing new to you. Graff actually crafts some decent, if strictly two-dimensional characters which are mainly likeable and interesting. He also does churn out some pretty solid moments that feel in the vein of a classic screwball comedy, and there's some standard comedy to go around (I actually found the classroom fire scene amusing). But at it's core, the movie's humor stems from the obvious and Jewish stereotypes (which I enjoy because I'm Jewish). The movie also has some pretty amusing one-lines, which does brighten things up.

Sitcom veteran Ken Kwapis directed the movie, and that doesn't help the fact already the movie feels a bit sitcom-ish. But I enjoyed what Kwapis did here. He makes the movie accessible and just gets right into things. It seems he's attempted to hone everything and doesn't waste any time, which is something that I appreciated. His visual style is nothing special and is a bit bland, but that does add to the accessibility and mainstream access for this movie (something I'm sure the studio wanted). Nonetheless, the film's pacing and sense of familiarity probably do overall help it. And on a different note, Cliff Eidelman's score is quite nice and fits very well into the film.

I think Fran Drescher is actually a pretty talented actress and creative force, and it's too bad she's not a really such a main draw in the film industry. The problem is that I think she's typecasted, and this movie doesn't help her at all. Everyone knows her from the CBS sitcom "The Nanny" and her role here is pretty similar: a feisty girl from Queens who makes her mark on quite a few people. It's the role we all know her best for, and in this movie, as you'd expect, she does it quite well. Think what you want about her voice, but Drescher has great comedic timing, is enthusiastic and is pretty charming. It's definitely the type of role you can only imagine someone like her in, and she does it with ease.

Timothy Dalton (where has HE been lately?) is pretty well cast as Pochenko, despite his over-the-top accent and mannerisms. He plays off well against Drescher and at times seems a bit demonic, but it's a performance you'll either like or dislike. Ian McNeice and Patrick Malahide (there's another name I haven't heard in a bit) do decent jobs in the movie, and you even get a few glimpses of the awesome character actor (or so I think) Michael Lerner. Not bad at all.

So in the end, "The Beautician and the Beast" succeeds in what it sets out to do: make a broad, standard romantic comedy, and it should be respected for that. There's nothing really memorable about the film, but it's not that bad and does have it's moments. It's basically a film that will entertain few in years to come but will fade into oblivion along the lines. The acting is good, the story isn't anything amazing (but I think held some potential and could have been much funnier - would have certainly been remembered if all that happened) and it does have some laughs. And if this was supposed to be a star vehicle for Fran Drescher to launch a respectable film career, well then... she should have done something un-"Nanny" like.

 

"The Beautician and the Beast" is presented in a pretty good 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While there is no edge enhancment to be seen here, the main problem with this transfer is that it can be pretty soft. This is ultimately distracting and doesn't really help the transfer and makes it a bit more murky, since at times there is a considerable amount of details in shots. The image can be slightly grainy at points, and there is an overcontrasted look to this movie which is also distracting. You'll find plenty of noise and edge halos here, as well as some dirt pieces and blemishes. But the transfer sports some strong detail, decent fleshtones and color satuation that is nothing special, even at times underwhelming, but suitable.

 

"The Beautician and the Beast" has a 5.1 Dolby Digital mix in English, and it's just fine. Comedies typically don't make for great mixes (there have been some exceptions in my experience though), but you won't be disappointed here. Surround activity is pretty much what you'd expect... it's fair, everything is balanced and there's nothing aggressive. There are some surround sounds in the more slapstick-oriented scenes (such as the fire in the classroom, which does sound pretty sharp) but most of the speaker use comes from the well done score by Cliff Eidelman, which does fill up the speakers nicely. Dialogue is very crisp and quite clear, while fidelity is pretty high. The dynamic range here is good as well, but subwoofer use is overall (and understandably) lacking. Nothing spectacular, but certainly not bad. Also included is an English Dolby Surround track and a French stereo surround track, plus English subtitles and English closed captions.

 

Now this is weird, but thank the Lord for DVD which can only bring us this kind of thing (I'm serious). Those who check out the DVD will get one supplement (even if there was a trailer for this movie - like usual, it's impossible to tell you why it's not included here), and it's quite excellent if you ask me. That's right, you get an Audio Commentary with Fran Drescher. Who would have thought? Seriously, this movie was panned by critics and barely made any money at the box office, let alone hasn't found a life on home video or even cable for that matter. Why the hell would there be an audio commentary for this movie?

Simply put, I just LOVE the fact that there is one for "The Beautician and the Beast." I think every movie is entitled to a commentary, and who knows how this happened. Was Drescher offered a commentary? Did she insist she do one? Who knows. But I'm glad it's here, and if you liked the movie or happen to be curious about it's production (even if this wasn't a mega blockbuster or a big budgeted special effects extravaganza), then this is well worth a listen. Drescher is quite insightful and remains pretty screen specific, and there aren't any really silent moments on this track... she just keeps going and going with a ton of information. She actually makes a lot of really funny jokes (working title for this movie: "The King and Oy"), offers praise for the cast and crew, points out some hidden jokes, what certain scenes ultimately meant and how they were staged and tells a strong amount of amusing production stories. This track gives more depth to the movie as a whole, and is quite entertaining. Drescher really has a lot to say about every little thing, and comes across quite winning. Definitely worth a listen... it's one of the best tracks I've heard lately.

Oh, and believe it or not, her voice doesn't sound too annoying here (it sounds like she has a cold) so after a bit over an hour-and-a-half you probably won't want to shoot yourself.

 

"The Beautician and the Beast" isn't the best comedy out there, but if you need some light entertainment then this will do just fine (there are certainly worse ways to pass the time). This is a respectable and nice example of a catalog release. The transfer is good, the sound mix fits the material fine and the lone supplement is not only worthy, but really enjoyable. Oh, and the price is just right. The commentary is worth the price of admission alone for Fran Drescher fans, but if you're a fan of the movie or are curious, then it's probably worth picking up.