Many have complained about the fact that Hollywood often chooses to remake or mine other properties instead of actually coming up with some original ideas. More often than not, they would be right. Yet, few mention that occasionally these ventures work better than one might expect. Such is the case with 1995's "Sabrina", a film that is certainly problematic in a few ways, but still captures a certain something that most films of the genre don't.
Julia Ormond (as in, "whatever happened to...?") stars as Sabrina, the daughter of the chauffeur (John Wood) to the wealthy Larrabees. She spends much of her youth watching over the parties and admiring her stunning surroundings. Also, during this time, she falls for David Larabee (Greg Kinnear), but he's engaged to be married to Elizabeth Tyson (Lauren Holly), whose family business is about to merge with Linus's.
Sabrina heads off to Paris, where she comes out of her shell. When she returns, she's different enough so that even David doesn't first recognize her. Ormond pulls off this transformation wonderfully. While she's obviously changed only minor things (hair, etc), there's something about her whole body language and confidence that has changed enough. Of course, when David finally realizes who she is and falls for her, it could cause the business merger to fall apart. He sets about romancing her himself, but whether it's to save the business deal or because he's falling for her himself is unknown until late.
It certainly helps that Pollock recieves some of the better recent performances of much of his starring cast. I have disliked Harrison Ford in some of his recent efforts (director Pollock's "Random Hearts", "What Lies Beneath"), he plays the stern businessman well here, able to drop the emotional barrier during some scenes with Ormond and also, able to offer some dry and well-delivered humor with Kinnear. Speaking of Kinnear, this is also one of his best efforts. While his career has gotten rather sidetracked playing a similar character in films like "Loser", "Someone Like You" and "What Planet Are You From?", his effort in "Sabrina" demonstrates his ability to do light comedy quite well. Julia Ormond really hasn't been in much since "Sabrina", which is unfortunate, because she really shines here in a sweet and touching performance.
If there's really any major fault with Pollack's edition of "Sabrina", it's that the film is simply too long. The scenes with Sabrina in Paris, as well as a few other tidbits in the middle could have been trimmed to help the film's pace. Otherwise, the film is a winner: good cinematography, pleasant score, great locations, fine performances and solid direction. While remakes don't often work, occasionally a filmmaker will be able to see potential in creating something fresh from material that has already been done strongly previously and that's the case here.
VIDEO: Paramount presents "Sabrina" in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Director Sydney Pollack is thankfully one of many directors who are a big supporter of presenting films in widescreen. Although some concerns appear in the opening credits scene with visible wear, the presentation settles in fairly well for much of the rest of the way. Sharpness and detail are generally pleasant, as the picture appears crisp and nicely defined, if not exceptionally so.
Flaws are noticable, but I didn't find them very distracting. The opening credits do present considerable wear, with some specks and a scratch or two. The rest of the movie looks cleaner, but occasional specks and a couple of marks and scratches appear. Overall, I didn't feel the print flaws became a major issue, but there were a bit more than I would expect from a picture that was released in 1995. Pixelation is not visible, but a few instances of very slight edge enhancement are.
Colors are attractive in appearance throughout the picture, as the film takes place in some luxurious, bright and colorful locations. Colors looked well-saturated and strong, with no smearing or other faults. Overall, this is a respectable and occasionally quite good looking presentation, but there are some problems that keep it from looking its best.
SOUND: "Sabrina" is not only a comedy, but a romantic comedy, which is really the genre that seems to have the least interest in sound beyond the basic needs. While the picture does have a pleasant score that occasionally is reinforced by the surrounds, the rear speakers really don't have anything else to work with. Audio quality is pleasing, as the score sounds rich and crisp, while dialogue and the few sound effects or other touches that the sound offers come through clearly and naturally.
MENUS: Basic, non-animated menus. The main menu is essentially the cover art, over again.
EXTRAS: The disc essentially offers the bare minimum - the trailer. Director Sydney Pollack has contributed commentaries in the past, so I'd hoped he'd do so again here, but no luck.
Final Thoughts: Although there are some problems such as length, this remake of "Sabrina" blends light comedy and romance quite well and is charming more often than not, thanks to terrific performances. Paramount's DVD presents good, but not exceptional audio/video and very little in the way of supplements.
The Film ***
Video 85/B = (340/400 possible points)
Audio: 86/B = (344/400 possible points)
Extras: 70/C- = (210/300 possible points)
Menus: 70/C- = (140/200 possible points)
Value: 82/B = (246/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ***
DVD GRADE: B-