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Mick Jackson
Steve Martin, Victoria Tennant, Sarah Jessica Parker
Writing Credits:
Steve Martin

With the help of a talking freeway billboard, a wacky weatherman tries to win the heart of an English newspaper reporter, who is struggling to make sense of the strange world of early 1990s Los Angeles.

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/16X9
English Dolby 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $9.98
Release Date: 6/13/2006

• “The Story of LA Story” Featurette
• “The LA of LA Story” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes & Outtakes
• 1991 EPK
• Trailers & TV Spots
• Previews


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LA Story (1991)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 19, 2021)

For years, Woody Allen made movies that acted as love letters to New York City. With 1991’s LA Story, Steve Martin attempted the same treatment for Los Angeles – albeit with more than a little satire as well.

Despite a background filled with advanced college degrees, Harris Telemacher (Martin) works as a “wacky” TV weatherman. He finds much of his cliché LA life meaningless and hopes for something better.

This appears to arrive when he meets British journalist Sara McDowell (Victoria Tennant). With the strange aid of an electronic billboard that sends him private messages, Harris attempts to improve his situation.

When LA Story hit screens 30 years ago, Martin stood at or near the pinnacle of his movie career. Though Martin never starred in a massive smash, he made solid hits like 1987’s Planes, Trains and Automobiles and 1989’s Parenthood.

Story failed to find much of an audience, but later in 1991, Martin would score a good hit with Father of the Bride. The latter delivered a surprisingly awful movie, and despite Martin’s best efforts, Story doesn’t fare much better.

I enjoyed Martin all the way back to his late 1970s breakthrough as a standup comedian, and when I saw Story in 1991, I wanted to like it. I didn’t, but I thought perhaps I’d find more to dig about it 30 years later.

Nope. Indeed, I might find even less to enjoy about Story as a 54-year-old than I did at 24, as the movie’s multiple flaws become awfully glaring.

This really becomes Martin’s version of Allen’s Annie Hall - albeit with a broader view of its environment. Though a romantic comedy at its heart, Story devotes a lot of time to its jokes about various aspects of Los Angeles.

Martin’s LA-centric gags seem so trite and stale that I find it tough to believe he figured they’d work. Martin goes for the lowest of all low-hanging fruit in the ways he mocks the city and its residents, so don’t expect insight or cleverness from these bits.

The romantic aspects of Story fare no better, and that’s where we really see the Allen connection. From her clothes to her personality, Sara acts as nothing more than a really annoying, cheap knockoff of Annie Hall herself.

But it happens. Tennant plays Sara as nothing more than a series of wacky traits and fails to find a real character.

Not that Martin’s script helps her, as Sara gets little room to develop into anything more than the stereotypical Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Harris lacks much personality as well and becomes a lackluster lead despite Martin’s talents.

Martin’s pretensions badly get the best of him with Story. He tosses in lots of fantasy elements that don’t mesh with the narrative well, and his insistence on multiple Shakespeare allusions seem inane and pretentious.

Martin did manage to lure a lot of talented actors into the fold, though. The cast brings folks like Sarah Jessica Parker, Richard E. Grant, Chevy Chase, Marilu Henner, Kevin Pollak, Patrick Stewart, Frances Fisher, Iman, Larry Miller, George Plimpton, Woody Harrelson, Rick Moranis, and Terry Jones.

And it wastes each and every one of them. With a barely coherent narrative and a slew of cheap jokes, the movie disappoints.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+

LA Story appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. By the standards of a standard-def DVD from the 2000s, this didn’t seem like a bad presentation, but it also failed to turn into a good one.

Sharpness was erratic. Close-ups demonstrated reasonable clarity, but wider shots tended to seem soft and lackluster. I saw minor issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and light edge haloes cropped up at times.

Colors looked passable and not much better. Mainly made up of blues and ambers, the tones seemed somewhat flat and failed to take advantage of the sunny LA setting. Blacks were similarly average, and shadows seemed a bit dense.

Print flaws popped up occasionally, so throughout the movie, I noticed sporadic specks and blemishes. All of this added up to a transfer that appeared mediocre, even for SD-DVD.

As for the film’s Dolby 5.1 soundtrack, it worked fine for its vintage. Given the movie’s tale, the mix didn’t shoot for much, but it added a little zest to the proceedings, mainly due to some weather-related elements.

Music showed good stereo presence, and the various channels contributed passable engagement to the sides. Much of the flick lacked ambition, though, so don’t expect much involvement from the mix.

Audio quality also seemed fine. Speech was reasonably natural and concise, while music showed acceptable pep and clarity.

Effects brought us accurate enough material. This became a wholly mediocre track for a movie from 1991.

A few extras appear here, and The Story of LA Story runs 12 minutes, 34 seconds. It includes notes from director Mick Jackson, producer Daniel Melnick and writer/actor Steve Martin.

“Story” looks at the film’s origins and development, sets and locations, Jackson’s approach to the project, a deleted scene, cast/performances, and other reflections. This becomes a decent mix of insights and happy talk.

The LA of LA Story features production designer Lawrence Miller and takes us to various movie locations. We find 13 segments with a total running time of 15 minutes, 24 seconds of footage.

Miller tours the different LA spots and us info about them. I like the content but not the awkward interface, as it becomes a chore to work through the material.

18 Deleted Scenes & Outtakes occupy a total of 20 minutes, 20 seconds. Some offer extensions of existing sequences, but a lot of new material shows up as well.

In particular, we get a five-minute, 28-second segment in which Harris meets with big-shot producer Harry Zell (John Lithgow), and a few more call back to Zell. Another series of scenes shows Harrir’s neighbor, a boxer (Scott Bakula).

Do any of these really seem like they’d have made much of a difference in the final film? Probably not, but they do give us a much better picture of Harris’s attempts to elevate his status in showbiz.

None would’ve hurt the film. Oddly, in the “Story of LA Story featurette, Melnick claims the Zell footage didn’t make the final cut because these bits would’ve forced the film to run too long. It’s only 95 minutes – another six or seven minutes wouldn’t have padded it too much.

A 1991 EPK spans five minutes, 38 seconds and involves Martin, Melnick, and actors Marilu Henner and Victoria Tennant. We get minor basics in this promo reel.

We get two trailers and six TV Spots. Also from Lionsgate provides ads for Swimming With Sharks, A Good Woman and Moonlighting.

With LA Story, Steve Martin attempts a mix of satire and romantic comedy. None of this succeeds, as the film becomes little more than a series of cheap gags and annoying characters. The DVD offers mediocre picture and audio along with a few bonus materials. The movie disappointed me in 1991 and didn’t get better with age.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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