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The Cider House Rules is a "wow" movie - not "Wow"! Amazing special effects!?, or "Wow"! Cast of thousands and gargantuan budget!?, but rather "Wow"! That's a great movie!? It's compelling, complex, and amazingly well-crafted in all its details.

Cider House Rules, The
Movie
The Cider House Rules is an adaptation of the John Irving novel of the same name, telling the story of Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire), a young man growing up in an isolated Maine orphanage shortly before WWII. Homer has learned a lot about life, and its tragedies and joys, at the orphanage; but he feels the need to stretch his own wings, to find his own place in the world... which Dr. Larch (Michael Caine), the orphanage director and father-figure to Homer, feels can only be a mistake. The film is strongly character-oriented, with a well-cast and well-acted set of characters who are fully three-dimensional and very human. There are no clear-cut good guys and bad guys here, not even the good but flawed Dr. Larch or a later "bad" character whom it is impossible to fully condemn.

As an adaptation of a novel, The Cider House Rules shines, because there's really no way to tell, other than the credits, that it's an adaptation. That's to say that it succeeds in avoiding the frequent fate of filmed novels, which is trying to cram too much into the movie. Undoubtedly a great deal of the novel was cut on the way to making the movie... which means that the movie has space to breathe life into the parts that are filmed. It's certain that John Irving deserves the Academy Award that he won for Best Adapted Screenplay of his own book.

Cider House Rules, The
Video
The image quality of this DVD is outstanding. The anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer is flawless, and the cinematography shows it off, with gorgeous shots of the landscape that evoke the essence of Maine and New England in all its beauty and character. Colors are vibrant, from the reds and golds of autumn leaves to the green of fresh grass.

Audio
This isn't a movie that demands much of its soundtrack, but it?s very good for what it's used for. Dialogue is clear, and the music is excellent. The Dolby 5.0 sound is more than adequate.

Extras
The documentary "The Cider House Rules: The Making of An American Classic," is interesting but not compelling. It gives a glimpse of the other work done by director Lasse Hallström, and some general insights into what went into making the movie, but it doesn't go into great detail. The deleted scenes are quite interesting, with at least one that seems as though it should have gone into the movie. There are a lot of trailers; in fact, it seems like the disc includes every variation (no matter how slight) of every trailer and TV spot that was used, ever, in promoting the movie, both before and after it won its two Oscars. After a certain point, the trailer section gets very repetitious, and it?s probably not worth watching them all, but it is interesting to see the first few. The extras also include a commentary track with Lasse Hallström, John Irving, and producer Richard N. Gladstein, and cast and crew biographies. There is also a full-screen version of the film.

Cider House Rules, The
Overall
The Cider House Rules is a movie that stirs emotions without being sentimental; it's complex and true to the characters and situations that it sets up. The DVD quality is outstanding. This is a DVD to keep and to watch again and again.


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