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Introduction
Hollywood has had a mixed record in translating French films into successful Stateside remakes. William Friedkin began to wobble after his early 1970s successes when mangling Clouzot’s classic Wages Of Fear as the oddly monikered Sorcerer, La Cage Aux Folles became silly gender-bending Robin Williams and Nathan Lane vehicle The Birdcage and the less said about how Les Diaboliques was ‘re-imagined’ as the irredeemably awful Sharon Stone starrer Diabolik the better.

Against this pretty poor track record comes Joel Schumacher’s Cousins, itself an American remake of Jean Charles Tacchella's 1975 fluffy French comedic fayre Cousin, Cousine. A chance for romantic comedy bon mots or a bit of a cinematic faux pas?

Cousins
Movie
Carefree Larry Koczinski (Danson) loves life. In fact, despite being a good father to his teenage son, Larry’s determination to deprive his life of dullness drives his materialistic wife Tish (Young) to distraction. She wants her dance teacher husband to settle down, get a good job and start bringing home the bacon in a lot larger quantities.

Likewise, BMW salesman Tom (Petersen) loves the ladies and hates anyone mentioning that he also sells rather less prestigious Subaru motors. His unfathomably faithful wife Maria (Rossellini) has over looked his litany of little extra-marital indiscretions in favour of raising their young daughter who’s having some problems at school.

The marriage of Larry’s uncle to Maria’s mother causes these two mis-matched couples to come crashing together; an event during which Tish and Tom slip outside for some secret nookie. Larry and Maria hatch their own plot to prick the jealousies of Tom and Tish by pretending to have their own affair, promising to punish their respective errant spouses. Everything goes well except that Larry and Maria soon become aware that they’re actually falling for each other and discover that love is a lot more complicated than simple sex…

Cousins
Joel Schumacher is well known (and rightly so) for his celluloid excesses. Silver screen outings such as St. Elmo’s Fire, Flatliners, The Lost Boys and the two travesties in the Batman franchise have confirmed a sense of style over substance. In the case of these kissing Cousins there’s precious little of either, this being Schumacher’s most bland film to date.

Yet, while it never even attempts to scale the heights of subsequent hits like Falling Down, Flawless or [/i]Phone Booth[/i], there is no bad thing in being an inoffensively gentle little romantic comedy. Released in the same year that Gordon Gecko decreed that “Greed is good”, Cousins is notable for its soft anti-materialistic stance; it should come as no surprise that the characters who spend their lives craving cash end up dead, divorced or unhappy.

As the anodyne script springs no surprises, it’s all down to the cast to captivate the audience. Ostensibly constructed as an opportunity to surround the laconic Danson with quality performers and watch him spark off them, for all its flaws Cousins works by sheer star power alone. Danson effortlessly carries the film as its centrepiece, Rossellini reminds everyone that she really should regularly appear in far better films than this, Petersen is suitably slimy and Young bitches away which clenched teeth as only she can.

Cousins
Best of all is the show-stealing cameo from Lloyd Bridges. Seemingly stumbling on set carrying on a hilarious performance from an entirely separate film, Bridges ad-libs the best lines in the same form that elevated Airplane to its classic comedy status. Alas, this remain a high point in an overly mediocre movie.

Video
Surprisingly subdued in its colour scheme for a film featuring Joel Schumacher on directing duties, the image, anamorphically enhanced at a ratio of 1.78:1, doesn’t have anything outrageous with which to deal. A restrained palette of lush greens, thick browns and cold blues or silvers is handled admirably by the sharp transfer.

Detail levels are good, particularly in highlighting Petersen’s natty 1980’s nylon suits and contrast levels are employed effectively in Larry’s harshly lit apartment but there is a sense that, in considering the budget and age of the film, the DVD presentation could look better.

Cousins
Audio
A Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track has been included but, until a brief musical sequence three quarters of the way through, it’s hard pressed to make its’ presence felt. In such a dialogue driven film, the lack of a surround track is not the end of the world; the trio of wedding sequences display some nifty channel separation from the front of the soundstage and Ted Danson’s celebrated slurred style of delivering dialogue is always crystal clear from the centre speaker.

The accompanying French, German, Italian and Spanish Dolby Surround tracks differ very little from the original English equivalent. Francophiles and Deutsche denizens shouldn’t be disappointed with the dubbing jobs here as they’re actually pretty good with subtle differences from the subtitles to allow for the demands of lip-synching.

Extras
Conspicuous by their absence, not even chapter selections can be found on this disc as a separate feature. With Lloyd Bridges having since sadly passed away, there was plenty of room of cast biographies or filmographies for even the tiniest tribute.

Cousins
Overall
Neither good enough to make you exhort “Mon Dieu!”, nor bad enough to produce an exasperated “Zut, alors!”, Cousins remains overly reliant on a little je ne sais quoi in the easygoing principal pairing of Danson and Rossellini, punctuated by priceless interjections from Lloyd Bridges, to rescue it from being completely forgettable.

Presented by Paramount on another disc that’s as annoyingly average as the film itself, Cousins is nevertheless not the worst way of spending a wet and windy Sunday afternoon and may even make a decent DVD purchase for Ted Danson devotees or those in the dating game.


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