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On paper Frankie & Johnny looked like an exciting proposition. Two great leading actors in the form of Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer, and a director whose previous work included the smash hit ‘Pretty Woman’. I remember seeing Frankie and Johnny in the cinema when it was first released. Although the movie was ok, I still felt a little disappointed by the outcome at the end. With this region two release I had the opportunity to revisit the movie to see if a second viewing would change this.

Frankie & Johnny
Movie
The idea behind the film is taken from Terrence McNally's play "Frankie and Johnny at the Clair de Lune". Johnny (Al Pacino) is an eccentric ex-criminal who has just finished serving his sentence. During his time in prison Johnny built up a great wealth of knowledge, and is desperately seeking work now that he is free. He is looking for catering work in the New York area, and is desperate to take anything. He gets a break one day when he finds a café where they are in need of a chef. Due to his past the owner of the café is a little apprehensive about taking him on, but sees that Johnny is keen and decides to take a risk and give him a chance. This is where Johnny meets Frankie, another member of staff at the café. Frankie (Michelle Pfeiffer) has been working there as a waitress for a long time. She lives alone and has a poor history of relationships with men. Johnny is instantly attracted to her, but it becomes apparent early on that she has been hurt one too many times by men and finds it hard to trust people.

Gradually Johnny’s charm (and constant pressure) wins her over, and the couple start dating. The pair seem to get on well, but Johnny is keen to form an intense relationship from the start. Not happy with a casual fling, he sees Frankie as the woman he was destined to be with. This makes Frankie uneasy and she decides to cool off the relationship. The rest of the movie deals with whether the couple are really compatible and are meant to be together. We learn more about the characters and their pasts. Are the couple really destined to spend their lives together, or is it simply a case of Johnny being too keen?

Frankie & Johnny
Frankie & Johnny is not your average romantic movie. Ordinarily you would expect the characters to be normal, and to get on very well from the start. This is not the case with Garry Marshall’s film. The character of Johnny is quite strange and unpredictable. Generally he is pretty down to earth but sometimes he can be possessive. Winning over Frankie is quite a struggle for him, and at times during the movie it doesn’t look like he will succeed. Frankie on the other hand obviously has some reason for not wanting to date men and it is only towards the end of the movie that we find out why. Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino both give strong performances, which is probably the main reason for the film’s success. Any other actors/actresses would have not been so convincing or interesting. Al Pacino in particular adds another string to his bow, by playing a role which is new to him. Most of his films are based around gangsters, so it was interesting to see how he dealt with playing the lead in a romantic film. Overall he comes out of it impressively, and doesn’t look out of place. As for Pfeiffer, she has played similar roles to that of Frankie so it is no great surprise that she performs well.  

Assessed as a romantic movie, Frankie & Johnny would probably be nothing more than average, however it has so much more to it. We don’t get any of the usual romantic settings where the characters simply melt into each others arms. This is a realistic and emotional film, which breathes fresh air into the romantic genre of movies. The fact that there are two established and respected stars in the lead roles only goes to strengthen the movie, which makes for an interesting couple of hours of entertainment. I am not a huge fan of romantic films, but found myself caring, and urging Frankie and Johnny to get together. Credit has to be given to the director and cast for this, and is one of the reasons that I recommend this movie. It is by no means a classic, but it will leave you feeling happy once it has ended.

Frankie & Johnny
Video
Frankie & Johnny is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is on par with recent Paramount releases, and is further evidence that DVDs are here to stay. I have to be honest and say that it is by no means the best transfer I have ever seen, but it does a reasonable job. Colour levels seem accurate and there is no visible damage or dirt on the print. Frankie and Johnny is quite a dull film as far as colours are concerned. Don’t expect bright colours throughout, as this is not the film to deliver. Grain was however non-existent and black levels were solid all the way through the movie. Clarity is a little bit of a let down, but overall this is a perfectly acceptable transfer.

Audio
Paramount have provided us with an adequate English 5.1 Surround track. As with most romantic movies there is not much need for more then the front speakers, so basically what we get is overkill. The rear speakers are brought into action a couple of times during the film. You will be glad to hear that the dialogue is clear throughout, and is delivered in an effective manner. French, German, Italian and Spanish tracks are also provided. Region two fans will be glad to hear that there are subtitles in over 20 different languages provided. Most languages are catered for, so hopefully you will be able to find the one you want.

Frankie & Johnny
Extras
Once again Paramount have released one of their back catalogue with just a theatrical trailer. This comes as no surprise, as it is in line with the region one disc. In an ideal world it would have been nice to see a commentary with Pfeiffer or Pacino, but sadly that’s not the case.

Overall
Paramount have once again provided a solid release of one of their past titles. Frankie & Johnny makes a solid attempt at being a romantic movie. Some of the die-hard romantics among you may not like the movie, because it is not cheerful throughout, however it tries to stay away from the tag of being ‘just another romance film’ and is better for that. Pfeiffer and Pacino are impressive as the troubled couple and add class to the movie. The visual and audio aspects of the disc live up to the standard of the film, but sadly once again Paramount have only included a trailer. Frankie & Johnny might have you crying, pulling your hair out and even laughing, but one thing it will definitely do is entertain you.


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