An Emotional Roller
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!
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.
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
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
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
Starring Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Ed Harris, with Jena Malone and
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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