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StepmomStepmom on DVD

An Emotional Roller Coaster

Columbia Pictures' Stepmom is an emotionally draining film about life, death, relationships, and coming to terms with life, death, and relationships.

Directed by Chris Columbus, who created such big screen comedies as "Adventures in Babysitting" and "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Stepmom" isn't big on laughs - but despite it being a relatively standard "relationship movie" on the surface, it turns out to be a charming example of the genre. Better have some Kleenex handy, though!

Stepmom's wonderful cast turns in excellent performances. Susan Sarandon is Ed Harris' ex-wife and mother to their two children. Julia Roberts is Harris' new main squeeze - a likeable enough professional woman who's trying to get along with the kids even though Sarandon seems hell bent to prevent that relationship from blooming.

Sarandon initially comes across as the jilted wife determined to be the victim of the piece, except that it's hard to be that way when Roberts is such a darn nice person who's trying so very hard to fit into the family. When Sarandon gets a virtually simultaneous double whammy (Harris and Roberts are getting married - and some even worse news about her own life that forces her into coming to terms with the Stepmom and her potential relationship with Ed and the kids) she changes for the better.

Besides the fine performances of the principles, the kids are also extremely well cast. Jena Malone (who shone as the young Ellie in Contact) and Liam Aiken (as a budding young magician) bring a likability to their roles as "the kids caught in the middle."

Stepmom comes off as a real team effort - and in fact Roberts and Sarandon also served as part of the "executive producing" team. Columbus, who often writes what he directs, only serves as director in this outing, but he brings a light touch to what could have deteriorated into a preachy and weepy film. Don't get us wrong - there are tears to be shed in this movie, but they flow naturally from your genuine respect for these characters and you don't feel manipulated by the filmmakers.

John WIlliams provides the musical score, and we doubt he could turn out a substandard one if he tried...

The DVD is a lovely example of the technology and is offered with widescreen and pan-and-scan versions on opposite sides of the disc. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the labelling around the disc's spindle is very small and it's difficult to differentiate one version from the other. We'd recommend companies label one version in one color and the other in another to make it easier.

Other extas abound, including an entertaining featurette on the making of Stepmom. You get the trailer, chapter stops, talent bios/filmographies, and even the liner notes are above average.

The digitally mastered picture and sound are excellent.

We went into Stepmom expecting a formulaic "relationship" movie, but came out with our expectations far exceeded. It's a good movie.

Stepmom, from Columbia Home Video
Starring Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Ed Harris, with Jena Malone and Liam Aiken.
Executive Producers Patrick McCormic, Ron Bass, Margaret French Isaac, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Pliny Porter
Story by Gigi Levangie, Screenplay by Gig Levanie and Jessie Nelson & Steven Rogers & Karen Leigh Hopkins and Ron Bass
Produced by Wendy Finerman, Mark Radcliffe, Michael Barnathan. Directed by Chris Columbus.


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Updated May 13, 2006