New to Blu-ray/DVD: The Front Page & Hot Pursuit


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Editor’s Notes: The Front Page and Hot Pursuit are out on their respective formats August 11th.

The Front Page

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The Front Page (Kino Classics) is the first of three film versions of the Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur play that became a standard setter for many screwball comedies to follow.  Hilda Johnson (Pat O’Brien) is an investigative reporter about to get married and looking for a more lucrative profession. When an accused murderer (George E. Stone) escapes from custody, Hildy sees a chance for the story of a lifetime. When he finds the criminal, however, he learns that the man may not be guilty. With the assistance of his editor (Adolph Menjou), Hildy attempts to stash the convict in a roll-top desk in the prison pressroom, uncover the conspiracy that incriminated him, and write the biggest scoop of the decade.

Directed by Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front), The Front Page bristles with sharp, witty dialogue and a rapid pace that later comedies would adopt. The story’s stage origin is evident in the movie’s limited sets, which would usually be a detriment to visual story telling. But the performances are so lively, and the basic story of political corruption so engrossing, the picture doesn’t at all suffer. The movie was remade by Howard Hawks in 1939 as His Girl Friday and once again by Billy Wilder in 1974, starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Carol Burnett.

The Blu-ray release was mastered in HD from 35-mm elements preserved by the Library of Congress. Special features include a short documentary on film preservation efforts of the Library of Congress; audio commentary by film historian Bret Wood; a 1937 radio adaptation starring Walter Winchell, presented by Cecil B. DeMille; and a 1946 radio adaptation starring Adolph Menjou and Pat O’’Brien.

Hot Pursuit

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Hot Pursuit (Warner Home Video) is a comedy about two dissimilar women from totally different walks of life being placed together in a situation that turns them, gradually, from adversaries to friends. That, in a nutshell, is the movie’s plot.

Officer Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) is a cop whose mishaps on the job have relegated her to the evidence room at her San Antonio precinct. But a key witness in an upcoming trial must be moved from San Antonio to Dallas. That witness is Daniella Riva (Sofia Vergara), who has agreed to testify against a big-time drug lord. Cooper is given the job of taking her to Dallas.

Basically a movie of contrasts, Hot Pursuit delights in playing up Ms. Vergara’s voluptuous body while downplaying Ms. Witherspoon’s natural beauty. Her 5’ 2” stature, unglamorous look, and boxy uniform become key sources of gags, both visual and spoken.

As a confessed fan of Ms. Vergara from watching her weekly exercises in slaughtering the English language on Modern Family, I was eagerly looking forward to seeing her in a big screen comedy. Despite sub-par material, she still manages to elicit laughs with a combination of her butchered English, one-liners, and sense of street smarts. Ms. Witherspoon appears desperate in most of her scenes, and this is not her character stressed at protecting a high-value witness from the bad guys. It stems from the actress trying really hard to put some oomph into a lackluster script.

The writing is the single element that sinks this picture. We already recognize the talent of both leading performers. Both have had success with comedy before. But placed in this often cliched movie, they are amusing, but never achieve memorable comedy moments. Rated PG-13, Hot Pursuit simply fails to exploit its stars to maximum comic effect.

Bonus extras on the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack include alternate ending, gag reel, and featurettes focusing on the camaraderie between stars Reese Witherspoon and Sophia Vergara.


About Author

For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.