'Moonstruck': Fall In Love All Over Again

"Moonstruck," starring Cher and Nicolas Cage, won several Academy Awards. (Sony Home Entertainment)
By Jen Chaney
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, April 21, 2006

Just like love affairs, most romantic comedies are shallow, forgettable flings (see "Must Love Dogs," "You've Got Mail" and almost every contribution to the genre featuring Julia Roberts or Kate Hudson). Then there are the special few that sparkle and endure, becoming even more precious as time passes.

"Moonstruck" -- the 1987 Oscar winner about a jaded widow, a tormented baker and the lunar glow that drives them into each other's arms -- falls in the latter category. That's why it's so nice to see this Italian-flavored charmer finally earn a long-awaited rerelease on DVD. Unfortunately, the deluxe edition of "Moonstruck" (PG, $19.94), which arrived in stores Tuesday, doesn't quite get the red-wine-and-roses treatment it deserves.

After waiting eight years for an upgrade to the original DVD version, fans will be heartbroken to learn that the improved model comes with only a few extras, including the same commentary track (by Cher, director Norman Jewison and screenwriter John Patrick Shanley) they got the first time around. The new making-of documentary, "Moonstruck: At the Heart of an Italian Family," is worth watching, but the tour of eating spots in New York's Little Italy, where the film is set, comes off as a pointless addition. Sure, it's great to watch the chef at Grotta Azzurra prepare a plate of bucatini all'Amatriciana, but I'd happily pass on the pasta in favor of some deleted scenes or a fresh audio commentary.

The film has been remastered in high definition, making the night skies and warm glow of New York's Metropolitan Opera, which plays a pivotal role in the picture, look generally crisper this go-round. Still, don't be surprised to see a few flecks and spots appear on the screen, a sign that perhaps that remastering job wasn't as carefully executed as it could have been.

Still, as disappointing as certain aspects of this DVD are, it's impossible to watch it and not fall for the pure pleasures that ensure the film's status as one of the best romantic comedies of all time. Like the ingredients in one of those satisfying Italian meals, the elements here are simple and timeless: the astutely observed screenplay; a cast of committed actors, including Oscar winners Cher and Olympia Dukakis, burrowing snugly into their roles; a soundtrack that mixes the cheer of Dean Martin's "That's Amore" with the passionate arias of Puccini's "La Boheme"; and the deft directing touch of Jewison. Nearly every ensemble film to focus on family and romance since "Moonstruck" -- from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" to "The Family Stone" -- has borrowed a page from its cookbook and usually ended up with inferior results.

That's because in "Moonstruck," the magic of romance is all in its subtle details. The images that linger long after the credits roll -- Cher's crimson, stiletto-heeled shoe popping out of a cab as she prepares to meet her new lover, or the soft glimmer of moonlight that filters through a lacy bedroom curtain late at night -- are what compel movie fans to return to this film year after year, like stargazers who never tire of the twinkle from a perfect constellation. Plus, Nicolas Cage delivers what may be the most honest monologue in romantic-movie history: "We are here to ruin ourselves and break our hearts and love the wrong people and die!"

You don't get that sort of talk in "Love Actually." And these days in Hollywood, you don't get romances as smart, real, operatic and dreamy as the bellissimo "Moonstruck."

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