Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Head Over Heels (2001)
Studio Line: Universal Studios - Four supermodel roommates. One regular girl. The guy next door doesn't stand a chance.

Ordinary single girl Amanda Pierce (Monica Potter) unexpectedly finds herself sharing an awesome Manhattan apartment with four sexy supermodels (Sarah O'Hare, Shalom Harlow, Ivana Milicevic, Tomiko Fraser). Determined to bring Amanda into their world, the models give her the ultimate makeover and tips. The plan works fabulously as Amanda connects with next door charmer Jim Winston (Freddie Prinze, Jr.). That is, until one night, while spying on him, Amanda thinks she sees the man of her dreams committing a cold-blooded crime. Life then unravels as Amanda and her four loopy roomies must take to the streets to try and solve the mystery with style!

Director: Mark S. Waters
Cast: Monica Potter, Freddie Prinze Jr., Shalom Harlow, Ivana Milicevic, Sarah O'Hare, Tomiko Fraser
Box Office: Budget: $14 million. Opening Weekend: $4.804 million (2338 screens). Domestic Gross: $10.397 million.
DVD: Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9; audio English Dolby Digital 5.1 & DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1; subtitles English, French; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 18 chapters; rated PG-13; 87 min.; $26.98; street date 7/31/01.
Supplements: Spotlight On Location Featurette; Theatrical Trailer; Cast and Filmmaker Biographies; Production Notes; DVD-ROM Features.
Purchase: DVD

Picture/Sound/Extras: B+/B+/D+

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to write a review of a film in which Monica Potter stars and not mention her eerie resemblance to Julia Roberts? Granted, my colleague Mike Mittleman managed to do so in his article about Patch Adams, but I lack the willpower to follow suit. I’m sorry, but the similarity is just too spooky to ignore, and it’s not just physical. Potter delivers lines in the same manner as Roberts, and she uses some of the same gestures and expressions.

Frankly, I’m dying to know how much of it is intentional. It’s hard to believe Potter hasn’t cultivated the similarities, for they’re too legion to be coincidence. Geez, co-star Freddie Prinze Jr. bears little resemblance to Freddie Prinze Sr., and that was his father!

In any case, I’ll try to leave my Monica/Julia obsession aside as I discuss Head Over Heels, though it’ll be difficult. At least other Potter flicks like Patch or Con Air don’t look like castaways from the Roberts collection, whereas HOH falls firmly into the romantic comedy genre Julia owns.

In HOH, Potter plays Amanda, an attractive and reasonably successful woman who is invariably unlucky in love. Her live-in boyfriend - briefly played by Timothy Olyphant of Gone In Sixty Seconds and The Broken Hearts Club - cheats on her with a model, so she moves on to a new abode. By witty (?) coincidence, she moves in with - surprise! - four semi-struggling models. (They describe themselves as “struggling”, but they’re not exactly scraping for breadcrumbs.) Amanda also meets hunky neighbor Jim (Prinze) after the dog he’s walking pounces on her.

She’s dying to hook up with Jim, but her bitter experiences with men make her reluctant to do so. However, after she and her roommates - Holly (Tomiko Fraser), Candi (Sarah O’Hare), Roxana (Ivana Milicevic), and Jade (Shalom Harlow) - spy on Jim from across the way, she can’t resist his charms and they set up a date.

All eventually goes well, but some events occur that scare her away from Jim. Although the DVD’s case, the trailer, and pretty much every other source relate these plot twists, I’ll leave them alone; I didn’t know them before I watched the movie, so you may also want to experience the film in a similarly fresh manner.

Suffice it to say that HOH firmly deviates from the romantic comedy realm after the first act, though it doesn’t really leave that genre. It goes into different styles but still maintains some of the original intent. Others have criticized HOH for its lack of consistency, and I will admit that the film seemed schizophrenic; it veers among a variety of genres haphazardly and rarely embraces any of them terribly successfully.

However, I thought HOH was fairly entertaining almost totally because it didn’t follow the normal path. Before I watched the film, I knew little about the plot and expected nothing more than the standard blandly sweet and comedic fare. I didn’t expect the twists the movie took, and those alterations really helped keep me interested. They ensured HOH wouldn’t be the standard “chick flick” and they let it create an identity of its own.

I guess the movie’s biggest problem stems from the “jack of all trades” syndrome. The flick encompasses romantic comedy, Farrelly-esque gross-outs, action and suspense all in one package, and it doesn’t do any of these elements terribly well. However, I thought it generally succeeded in all those ways except for the perverse gags. Those elements shouldn’t be surprising since the story comes from There’s Something About Mary writer John J. Strauss, but I felt they seemed to be exceedingly tacky and out of place. HOH attempted too much irrelevant irreverence, and it did so unsuccessfully; some of the bits looked like rejects from Three’s Company.

Nonetheless, I found Head Over Heels to be a reasonably painless and watchable experience, particularly once the plot twists came into play. I also liked the interactions between Potter and the models. A real-life model played all but one of those characters, and they add an unusual tone to the movie. Sure, they play up all of the egocentric model stereotypes, but they still create sympathetic and likeable characters, and they give the movie a nice twist.

Ultimately, Head Over Heels is a hit or miss enterprise, and much of the movie falls flat. Lead actors Potter and Prinze are bland at best, and is it just me or does Potter seem to be much too old for Prinze? Actually, she’s only five years older than he is, but for some reason he comes across as being much younger. In any event, fans of romantic comedy could do much worse than Head Over Heels, which I thought was an erratic but generally entertaining program.

The DVD:

Head Over Heels appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the movie looked very good, but a few small concerns occasionally interfered with the presentation.

Sharpness appeared consistently crisp and detailed. Some wider shots betrayed extremely modest softness, but these instances were rare. As a whole, the picture was distinct and accurate. I saw no instances of moiré effects or jagged edges, but some mild edge enhancement was visible on occasion. Print flaws were rare. I noted some light grain during the more dim sequences, and few speckles and a smidgen of grit also cropped up along the way. However, the majority of the film looked clean and fresh.

Colors usually seemed nicely vibrant and lush. Low-light sequences occasionally made the hues appear a little subdued, but all in all, they came across as bright and vivid. The best examples came from the models’ clothes. Their outfits offered many opportunities for varied and exciting colors, and the DVD replicated them well.

Black levels appeared to be nicely deep and rich, and for the most part, shadow detail was clear and appropriate. However, some low-light interiors could look somewhat muddy. These offered the most grain, and they seemed vaguely fuzzy and murky at times. These concerns remained pretty minor, however, and most of the movie looked quite good. Ultimately, I thought that Head Over Heels provided a very satisfying visual experience.

I was also very pleased with the movie’s soundtracks. As is often the case with releases from Universal, Head Over Heels included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. If any differences occurred between the tracks, I couldn’t discern them. I thought that these two mixes sounded virtually identical. Many times the DTS track will be louder than the Dolby edition, but in this instance, even volume levels seemed to be matched.

I expected the soundfield for HOH to be limited, and through much of the movie, that was what I got. For most of the film, the forward spectrum strongly dominated, and music was the most important element within that realm. On occasion, effects cropped up from the side channels, and they panned adequately; for example, check out the first scene in which Hamlet pounced on Amanda, as his running and the crashing of objects all popped up neatly in the sides. However, I felt that some of these elements seemed to be a little “speaker-specific”. The presentation wasn’t as natural as I’d like, and it felt as though the sounds were too heavily wedded to their individual channels.

As I noted, music dominated the soundfield through most of the film. The score maintained very nice stereo separation across the forward channels, and on occasion, the pop songs inserted into the movie provided good five-speaker output. The title tune, an Abba track, and some dance music all filled up the auditory space well, and they added a lot of oomph to the piece.

Though effects remained subdued during much of HOH, they came to life nicely in the flick’s climactic sequences. Those parts included screeching cars, gunfire and other more active elements, and the soundtrack made them work nicely. Most of HOH just used the rears for music and quiet ambience, but the movie’s final half hour or so really allowed the mix to expand and become exciting. The audio also could be rather disgusting, such as during the toilet explosion scene; that was one occasion during which I wished the track was less involving.

Audio quality appeared to be consistently solid. Dialogue occasionally sounded a little thick and metallic, but as a whole speech seemed to be crisp and reasonably natural, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects were clean and accurate, and they showed fine dynamic range during the louder sequences; the movie offered bright and rich elements and seemed to be quite realistic. Music also sounded bold and vivid. The score was appropriately lush and lively, and the pop songs appeared to be clear and vibrant. I was especially pleased to hear the fine fidelity accorded “Head Over Heels” itself; I’ve always loved that song, and I thought it sounded great. Overall, Head Over Heels provided a surprisingly active and engrossing soundtrack.

The only area in which this DVD falters relates to its supplements; we don’t get very many. Most significant is the Spotlight On Location documentary. These are ubiquitous on Universal DVDs, and this one was a fairly typical example. “SOL” ran for 10 minutes and 50 seconds and it included the usual mix of shots from the set, cast and crew interviews, and film clips. Here’s what I learned about HOH: everyone was great, and the movie is a lot of fun. Um… that’s about it. This “SOL” was rather superficial, and it did nothing more than promote the film.

Note that if you want HOH to be fresh when you first watch it, you should save “SOL” until after your screening. The featurette revealed a lot of plot points and included the flick’s ending. Nice play, Shakespeare!

A few other extras round out the package. We get the movie’s too-revealing trailer, one that oddly tries to set up a Cinderella theme; HOH had nothing to do with Cinderella, so this decision seemed strange. Some reasonably informative Production Notes add text about the film, while Cast and Filmmakers includes passable biographies for director Mark Waters and actors Potter, Prinze, O’Hare and Harlow. Lastly, “Recommendations” provides trailers for fellow Universal releases Bring It On, Bowfinger, and The Flintstones In Rock Vegas.

While HOH touts some DVD-ROM materials, there isn’t much to be found here. All this area offers above and beyond the same features found elsewhere on the disc are some links. We find connections to the websites for Universal Studios, Universal Theme Parks, Universal Home Video and Universal Pictures, and also one to sign up for the Universal DVD Newsletter. Otherwise, there’re no special DVD-ROM pieces.

While Head Over Heels won’t reside in the “Romantic Comedy Hall of Fame”, I thought the movie was a fairly amusing and compelling piece of work. Large chunks of the film failed to work, but just enough of it seemed interesting to maintain my attention. The DVD offered solid picture and sound, but it didn’t provide any significant extras. In the end, this would be a good rental for “date night”, as both men and women should find something of interest in Head Over Heels.

Equipment: Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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