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Mystic Pizza

(1988) ** 1/2 R
102 min. MGM. Director: Donald Petrie. Cast: Julia Roberts, Annabeth Gish, Lili Taylor, Vincent D'Onofrio, Matt Damon.

/content/films/4022/1.jpgSome films just don't age terribly well, and Mystic Pizza is one of them. It retains a curiosity value mostly for the rising stars in its cast: Julia Roberts, Lil Taylor, Annabeth Gish and Vincent D'Onofrio (and for comparison to 30 Rock's spoof "Mystic Pizza: The Musical"). The film captures something of callow youth, with an admirable focus on a group of young women (too seldom explored by Hollywood), but though the film's heart is in the right place, somehow it all winds up about as flat as one of the celebrated pies at Mystic Pizza.

The awkwardly cutesy title refers to the pizza joint in Mystic, Connecticut that provides jobs to the three main characters: Jojo Barboza (Lili Taylor), a recent runaway bride; responsible, Yale-bound Kat Araujo (Annabeth Gish); and Kat’s sister Daisy (Julia Roberts), a relative wild child who dates around and resists any kind of orderly plan for her life. The ingredients of the film, as it were, are the three romances of the three leads, each of which contains conflict and resolution. That each character's stories is defined by her relationship to a man taints this supposed women's picture and locates it closer to a paperback romance novel. The most interesting story belongs to Jojo, who is content to use her boyfriend Bill (D'Onofrio) for steady sex without giving him the emotional connection he desires; it's an amusing inversion of the gender archetype of men using women for sex.

While Jojo tries to decide whether or not she's ready to make a commitment—and whether Bill is the man to inspire her to make the leap—Daisy similarly ponders whether well-heeled law school dropout Gordon Windsor, Jr. (Adam Storke) might be relationship material despite the gnawing class difference between them. Kat takes part-time work as a nanny for the four-year-old daughter of contractor Tim Travers (William R. Moses) and his wife Nicole (Janet Zarish). The youthful fodder immediately sets Kat's heart going pitter-pat, and over the course of the film's fateful summer, the possibility of romance blooms (or looms) as Tim describes a marriage on its last legs. How could something that feels so right be wrong? Oh, Kat.

Director Donald Petrie lends some feel of place to this fishing community with a large population of Portuguese-Americans, but his commercial sensibility works against the film, robbing the characters and situations of intimacy.  One of the four screenwriters is Pulitzer Prize winner Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy), but he shares credit with Amy Jones, Perry Howze, and Randy Howze, so it's anyone's guess how much of Uhry's work comes through in the final product, but one suspects he's not responsible for the dopey subplot about a snooty restaurant critic who just may (ya think?) turn up at the pizza joint before the final fadeout. For its actors and its love lessons, Mystic Pizza may still appeal to (and serve) its core audience of girls becoming women, but cineastes may be less forgiving than snooty restaurant critics.

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Aspect ratios: 1.85:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0

Street date: 4/5/2011

Distributor: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

MGM gives Mystic Pizza its Blu-ray debut in a release that won't empty your pocketbook. The hi-def transfer doesn't have a lot of depth to it, and the colors don't exactly leap off the screen, but there's a noticeable improvement over DVD quality, and the image retains a natural, film-like appearance. The DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio track isn't exactly playing with power, but neither is the film's sound design: despite a distinct lack of fullness, this treatment gets the dialogue across with clarity. The only bonus feature here is the theatrical trailer (HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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