Part of usually more serious director Roger Donaldson's brief comedic period (which also included the cult hit "Cadillac Man"), "Cocktail" was the director's 1988 hit, a film that, thanks to a popular soundtrack and a solid performance from Tom Cruise, was able to propel itself past negative reviews to a gross just north of $75 million. The film itself is light fare, largely predictable and formulaic, but Cruise's energetic performance at least helps the movie to coast along.
Cruise plays Brian Flanagan, a college student who comes to Manhattan with big dreams of a career and finds that it isn't so easy to get your foot in the door when all the doors are usually slamming in your face. He decides to get a job as a bartender at a pub run by Doug Coughlin (Brian Brown). Of course, much like Piper Perabo's character Violet in "Coyote Ugly" a few years ago, Brian quickly goes from not knowing what the hell is in certain drinks to spinning bottles around. As the two become more popular, their friendship starts to break apart.
Brian heads off to Jamaica and finds love with Jordan Mooney (Elisabeth Shue). Will their love last? Does Brian care more about spinning bottles? Overall, it's a little difficult to care about the characters (Violet in "Coyote Ugly" at least wanted to be a singer/songwriter; Brian's dreams just seem to be all about money), but the film remains harmless and moves along at a rapid enough clip to keep the audience at least somewhat engaged.
Overall, "Cocktail" is decent, if ridiculous and occasionally silly, fun. It's not particularly well-written and not expertly acted, but the picture at least doesn't take itself very seriously and understands the kind of light fare it is.
VIDEO: "Cocktail" is presented by Buena Vista Home Video in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. After being utterly displeased with some of the studio's wave of catalog titles from earlier this Summer, I was moderately pleased with how "Cocktail" looks. Hopefully, this is an indicator of slightly improved treatment for some of the studio's new catalog releases. Award-winning cinematographer Dean Semler ("XXX", "Dances With Wolves", "Heartbreakers")'s cineamtography is presented relatively well here; bright, outdoor sequences have very nice sharpness and detail. Some of the more dimly lit interior scenes, on the other hand, have a more flat appearance and lack shadow detail.
Some flaws are present, but the movie doesn't show too much wear. Slight grain is occasionally apparent in some of the darker scenes, but I didn't find this to be too much of a distraction. Aside from a speck or two, the print was in quite nice condition. Edge enhancement was kept to a minimum, while only a few very slight traces of pixelation were spotted.
SOUND: "Cocktail" is presented with a new, remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. Unfortunately, this only serves to highlight the film's occasionally cheesy late 80's score, some which sounds dated at this point. Surround use is really quite minor, with only the music and a few instances of light ambience being the only moments when the rear speakers are put to any use.
MENUS: Basic, bland main & sub menus.
EXTRAS: The only extra is an odd one: there is a trailer for "Dangerous Minds", a movie that doesn't seem to have any connection to this one.Director Donaldson has proven himself quite good at providing commentaries ("Dante's Peak", "13 Days"), so it would have been nice to have one provided here.
Final Thoughts: "Cocktail" has its moments, but it's certainly not Cruise's finest hour or a very memorable feature. Buena Vista's DVD edition isn't terribly memorable, either: while audio/video quality were a little better than I expected, no supplements are included. The price, however, is pretty nice for fans of the film, who should be able to find this for around $15.
The Film ** 1/2