Pretty Woman appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While this transfer offered the best home video of Pretty Woman to date, it suffered from a few problems.
Many of those came from the era in which the film was made, though some of them didn’t connect to period issues. For the most part, sharpness seemed reasonably tight and well-defined. A little softness crept into some wide and/or low-light shots, but the movie usually presented nice definition. I noticed no problems with jagged edges or shimmering, though some mild edge enhancement was visible through the flick. The print displayed occasional speckles and grit along with a few streaks and marks. For the most part, the film was clean, though.
Though many movies from this one’s era suffer from flat colors, that wasn’t much of a problem here. Low-light situations were the biggest concern in general. They could be a little murky and opaque, and they were the only instances in which the hues looked a bit drab. Otherwise, the tones were quite vibrant and lively, and black levels seemed very deep and rich. Although the various flaws made my rating drop to a "B", it's a strong "B"; I was quite pleasantly surprised with the quality of this image, and I nearly knocked it up to a “B+”.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of Pretty Woman seemed less satisfying, though. The forward soundstage appeared only mildly broad and spatially-defined, as it stuck fairly closely to the center. We got music that spread across the front, but effects were more restricted and didn’t add much to the proceedings. The rears basically just reinforced the music, though they occasionally tossed in some gentle effects as well.
A few problems stemmed from the quality of the audio. Dialogue seemed a bit thin and artificial at times, though once I got used to the sound, the lines were acceptable; they didn’t quite seem natural, but they were easily intelligible and without edginess. Effects were adequate, as they didn’t feature prominently enough in the movie to make a difference either way.
The film's music occasionally sounded acceptably rich and lively, but not most of the time. A lot of Woman offered dance pop that showed decent but loose bass with too much reverb and midrange. Highs were flat, and the echo became distracting. Some of this resulted from the music production trends of the era, but that didn’t explain everything, as even the title track – recorded in the Sixties – suffered from the same concerns. The track was listenable, but it never became better than that.
How did this 15th Anniversary DVD of Pretty Woman compare with the 10th Anniversary release? Although that version had a Dolby Surround soundtrack instead of this one’s Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, I thought the audio was virtually identical. I didn’t notice any improvements that came with the 5.1 version.
However, the visuals offered a definite upgrade. The prior disc was non-anamorphic, so this new transfer tightened up matters a bit. Edge enhancement was more prominent in the old version, and that one was a little dirtier. The new transfer didn’t blow away the old one, but it offered a marked improvement.
The 15th Anniversary disc also alters the supplements from the original DVD. I’ll note new materials with an asterisk.
First up is an *audio commentary from director Garry Marshall. He presents a new screen-specific track. We learn about the project’s original title and script, the cast and their work, locations and production design, improvisation, and nuances of the shoot.
Marshall originally recorded a commentary for the 1997 laserdisc release of the film; that same track appeared on the 1998 DVD and the 2000 10th Anniversary DVD. This isn’t that discussion; it’s a new one created explicitly for the 15th Anniversary version.
To prepare for this disc, I re-listened to the old commentary. It’s a very strong track that I think still stands as one of the best I’ve ever heard. This made it difficult for me to judge the 15th Anniversary commentary on its own merits.
Objectively, the new track is pretty good. Marshall covers the film in a genial and humorous manner. He manages to make our time with him enjoyable.
However, the new commentary pales in comparison with the old one. Perhaps because he’s eight years older, or perhaps because he already talked about the movie back then, Marshall lacks the same high level of energy he exhibited the first time. He perks up as the movie progresses – or maybe I just got used to the more low-key tone – but he never gets into the film in the lively manner exhibited in 1997.
Marshall also tells us little that’s not already in the original track. He sprinkles in references to Proust and Chekhov, he updates us on matters that have transpired since 1997, and he offers minor tidbits like his nickname for Julia Roberts. Otherwise, you find most of the same information and even many of the same jokes.
Again, when listened to independently, this new commentary works just fine. It simply lacks a reason to exist, as the original chat was so very good. Perhaps the suits who produced the 15th Anniversary felt an old track would make it look stale, but I strongly prefer the original commentary. It was much more detailed and informative, so fans should continue to seek it out if they want to learn as much as possible. Screen it and you won’t have much use for this new piece.
Next up is a three-minute and 47-second production featurette created back in 1990. This pretty much defines the concept of "glorified trailer". We see some very brief interview snippets with Marshall, Richard Gere, and Julia Roberts. However, the majority of the piece we just watch clips from the movie and hear narration about the story. Skip this waste of time.
Two new featurettes follow. *Live from the Wrap Party goes for four minutes and seven seconds. This offers a train wreck rendition of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” with Gere on piano, Marshall on drums, and Roberts on some vocals. It’s bizarre, which makes it perversely entertaining to see.
After a 41-second introduction from Marshall, *LA: The Pretty Woman Tour runs nine minutes, 11 seconds. This shows dsjkda locations used in the film: Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, the W Hotel, the LA Museum of Natural History, Cicada Restaurant, the LA Equestrian Center, and the Las Palmas Hotel. As we see these, we hear narration from Marshall as he tells us about the locations and shooting at them. He remains delightful to hear, and he helps make this a fun program.
We also get a two-minute and 36-second *Blooper Reel. Expect the usual assortment of gags and silliness, though a couple moderately interesting bits appear. It’s a little above average for this sort of piece.
Finally, we get the theatrical trailer and a music video for Natalie Cole's song "Wild Women Do". That clip offers the typical video for a tune from a film. It shows shots of Cole lip-synching the song which are intercut with scenes from the movie. It's a dated and silly piece, but it's fun to see in a "Weren't the early Nineties dopey?" way.
A few ads open the DVD. We find promos for Shopgirl, Flightplan, and various TV series. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area with commercials for Herbie Fully Loaded, Scrubs Season Two and Alias Season Four.
Still charming after all these years, Pretty Woman established Julia Roberts as a star and revived the career of Richard Gere. It shows its age on occasion, but it still manages to evoke a nice tone and a few laughs. The DVD presents pretty good picture and average sound along with a small set of supplements highlighted by a good audio commentary.
I like Pretty Woman well enough to recommend it, so the question becomes which version you should get. The 15th Anniversary release offers the film’s best visuals but it loses a great audio commentary. (Audio seems very similar for both.) The 10th Anniversary disc has that commentary but provides a lackluster non-anamorphic transfer. While I hate the absence of the original commentary, I do think the 15th Anniversary disc is the best of the bunch, so it’s the one to buy. Try to rent the old one for the commentary, though; you won’t regret it.