The Big Chill appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 screens. This became a mediocre presentation.
Sharpness looked average at best. While the movie showed acceptable delineation, it never seemed better than that, as a general softness affected much of the image. Some light edge haloes didn’t help, and I saw mild shimmering and jagged edges at times. Print flaws offered a mix of spots and specks. These never became heavy but they cropped up more often than I’d like.
Colors tended toward the subdued side of the street. The movie went with a fairly brownish look that didn’t seem dynamic but suited the tone of the story. Skin tones occasionally looked rather pink, which I suspect was a side effect of the early 80s film stocks.
Blacks were fairly dark, while shadows seemed generally good. A few shots came across as a little dense, but again, that seemed to reflect the source. Given the age of the movie – and the transfer – this image could’ve been worse, but it remained blah.
Chill came with a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix. In regard to the latter, the soundscape lacked much ambition. Music broadened to the sides in a moderate manner, and occasional effects spread to the various speakers. For instance, vehicles moved from one spot to another in a passable manner.
None of this opened up the track particularly well, though. Honestly, I’m not sure why a heavily character-based film like this warranted a multichannel remix, as the minor added dimensionality seemed superfluous.
Audio quality was fine for its era. Speech seemed fairly natural and concise, without obvious defects. Effects came across as reasonably accurate; those elements lacked much range but showed adequate clarity. Music offered the most bang, as the 1960s music boasted pretty good punch. Nothing here impressed but the mix worked fine for the film.
A few extras fill out the set. A Reunion goes for 56 minutes, three seconds and offers notes from Kasdan, writer Barbara Benedek, music consultant Meg Kasdan, editor Carol Littleton, executive producer Marcia Nasatir, production designer Ida Random, director of photography John Bailey, and actors William Hurt, Glenn Close, JoBeth Williams, Kevin Kline, Tom Berenger, Meg Tilly, Mary Kay Place, and Jeff Goldblum. The documentary looks at the project’s origins and development, music, story/character areas, cast and performances, sets and locations, camerawork, deleted scenes and various anecdotes about the shoot.
The absence of a commentary disappoints me, but “Reunion” does a lot to compensate. While not the most dynamic piece, it covers various issues well and comes with a nice variety of stories. I think it’s considerably more entertaining than the movie itself.
In addition to the film’s trailer, five Deleted Scenes occupy a total of about nine and a half minutes. The longest shows the gang as they meet up at Alex’s funeral; it focuses on Michael and goes for a fairly comedic bent. We also see various characters as they shovel dirt on Alex’s grave, early stages of the folks at Harold and Sarah’s place, another video diary with Michael and a short bit after the end of the touch football game. These seem forgettable, and the absence of the semi-legendary Kevin Costner scene disappoints.
Finally, the package presents a 20-page booklet. This brings us a new essay from filmmaker Lena Dunham as well as a 1983 Film Comment article from Harlan Jacobson. As usual, the booklet complements the set.
Although it has some decent humor at times, too much of The Big Chill focuses on the incessant navel-gazing of fatuous Baby Boomers. A little of that goes a long way, so the characters wear out their collective welcome long before the film ends. The DVD includes a good documentary but picture and audio seem mediocre. This becomes an average release for a tiresome movie.
To rate this film, visit the Blu-ray review of THE BIG CHILL