Remember the outfit Cher wore to the Oscars when she won an Academy Award for her performance in this 1987 film? Ay-yi-yi. The actress’ more retiring character in this infectious comedy leaps several psychological hurdles just giving her hair a permanent. But then the original screenplay by John Patrick Shanley (Joe Versus the Volcano) is a wonderful, gently satirical tale of an Italian-American family dealing with repression and dissatisfaction against a backdrop of cultural expectations. Cher is focused and funny as a widow who feels she should marry an older fellow (Danny Aiello), but then falls for his black-sheep brother (Nicolas Cage). Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia are perfect as her parents, and John Mahoney (of TV’s Frasier) has a memorable, small role as a middle-aged man on the make who gets a lecture from Dukakis’s character. Shanley’s dialogue is comically stylized in a way that makes one appreciate how much words can inform an actor’s performance. Taking its cues from him and director Norman Jewison (And Justice for All), the cast immerse themselves in a pool of hilariously operatic emotion.

Studio: MGM
Year: 1987
Release Date: February 15, 2011
Run time: 130 minutes
Rating: PG

Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Disc Spec: 1 BD
Region: 1

Norman Jewison’s “Moonstruck” is a Romantic Comedy that stands above almost all in that genre. The cast, first of all, is a marvel, made up for the most part of character actors, but these are not bit players. Olympia Dukakis, for example, as the Italian mother Rose, won the Academy Award for supporting actress here. In the lead as Loretta Castorini, Cher also won her Oscar. Their performances are astonishingly good, but they are surrounded by a dozen other performances that make this film live and breathe.

Thirty-something, Loretta lives at home with Rose and father Cosmo, played brilliantly by Vincent Gardenia and grandfather, played by Italian treasure Feodor Chaliapin. In the opening scene long-time boyfriend Johnny Cammareri, played by Danny Aiello, proposes to Loretta in the neighborhood restaurant where everyone knows everyone. Loretta has scarcely had a moment to agree before Johnny tells her that he must return to his mother’s death-bed in Italy and for her to ask his estranged brother Ronny to come to the wedding.

Loretta finds Ronny slaving over a basement bakery, still fuming that he lost his girl years ago because Brother Johnny distracted him and Ronny lost his hand in a bread slicer. Ronny is bigger than life, like one of the characters from the operas he loves, full of passions both good and bad. He is so distracted from his lost love and hate for his brother he doesn’t notice the cute girl in the bakery is gone on him. Loretta performs her duties and asks Ronny to the wedding.

The Loretta in the early part of the film is a wallflower, and you get the idea that she accepts Johnny’s proposal because she doesn’t think she’ll get a better (or perhaps another) offer. The operatically unhappy Ronny is nonetheless passionate, and he awakens something in Loretta while Johnny is away.

Romantic comedies are often not very much of either. The romances are often superficial and paper-thin, and the comedy is as likely to produce a groan as a chuckle. “Moonstruck” benefits from a sparkling Oscar-winning screenplay by John Patrick Shanley. It is both romantic, with vivid lusty characters, and it is funny, with lines that could have been written by Quentin Tarantino on a good day, and I mean that in a good way.

Gardenia is having an affair with a younger woman, played by Anita Gillette, and their cuddly moments aren’t lovey-dovey, but about how masterful Gardenia the plumber is at talking clients into using copper piping. “I only use copper pipes. Sure, it costs more. It costs more because it SAVES more!” Rose knows Cosmo is having the affair, and you know it bothers her. She asks Johnny why men have affairs. “Because they fear death,” Johnny replies, and Rose seizes the answer as if heaven sent. “That’s IT!” Rose catches Cosmo sneaking in later and rather than having a bawling hissy-fit or smacking him, she tells him “I just want you to know that no matter what you do, you’re still gonna die! Just like everyone else!”

Side characters make up much of the charm and beauty of this excellent film. Julie Bovasso and Louis Guss play Loretta’s aunt and uncle, and although they look past their sexual prime, they still share glances and tender touches that let you know the embers are not cold yet. John Mahoney has a pitiful, funny, sad but wise part as a college professor who specializes in seducing young college girls with his academic wisdom, but winds up getting drinks tossed in his face at the restaurant where Johnny proposes to Loretta. On one of the nights when Rose knows Cosmo is out having his affair, Rose goes to the restaurant alone and meets the professor as he dries off the latest drink-in-the-face. This meeting could have gone many different ways, but it goes in a way that allows both characters to come away without losing their dignity in the eyes of the audience. It is a wise movie to accomplish this.
Movie Quality: 9.5/10

Print/Audio Quality

The print is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with a 1:85:1 aspect ratio. Having owned previous incarnations of the DVD release, especially the original 2001 DVD release, one thing I have noticed on Blu-ray is how vibrant the colors look on Blu-ray. You can literally see the shading, detail, and textures of clothing really shows how well this print has been restored. Blacks are nice and deep with there is a fine layer of grain. Colors are nice and strong throughout, yet there are a few several soft spots. If you are a fan and own the film on DVD, make sure to upgrade to the Blu-ray.
Print Quality: 9/10

The audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 mix. This film is primarily a dialogue driven film. Definitely more front channel speaker usage and rarely usage of the rear speakers. Dialogue is clear through the center channel with no apparent issues.
Print Quality: 9/10

Special Features

  • Theatrical Trailer

Special Features: 1/10

Final Thoughts

There may be a lot familiar or clichéd about this film, but there is also a lot to enjoy and remember. The acting is mostly rich (especially from the female stars) and the script is written with enough gusto to make even its most clichéd moments entertaining and somewhat fresh.
Overall Rating: 8/10