In 1593 London, young Will Shakespeare is in a bit of trouble. Heís short of money, owes a comedic play titled Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter to two different people, and now heís got a severe case of writerís block. That is until he meets the young Viola de Lesseps, his ideal woman, who yearns to be an actress. The words to his new play now flow like a river and soon itís time to cast the rolls. As the law forbids women on stage, Viola dresses up as a young boy and attends the auditions where she manages to secure the role of Romeo. William learns of her true identity but continues to let her act on stage, known to the others as Thomas Kent. He continues to write his play, but his mind isnít entirely on his work... his swashbuckling comedy is rapidly becoming a romantic tearjerker! Shakespeare In Love won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress.
This is the first movie from a Disney company to feature a 16x9 enhanced transfer Ė and the quality really shows. Mastered in (approximately) 2.35:1 widescreen, this is one of the smoothest and richest looking discs theyíve put out. It has extremely strong, accurate colors, good detail in the environment and costumes and very well calibrated black levels. There is practically no grain or chroma noise Ė quite a feat. If the picture was a bit brighter it would have been nearly perfect. The dual-layered disc contains 31 chapters with 5.8 gigabytes of data. The layer change is so well concealed at 1:18.40 (the beginning of chapter 22) that it is completely undetectable audibly or visibly unless you look really hard for it. Well done, Disney.
The soundtrack features a marvelous score orchestrated by Stephen Warbeck that is both pleasant to listen to and completely appropriate to the film. Bass is well used throughout, however I feel the rear channels were underused in both effects and music, leaving a very forward-centered stage. The 5.1 track is otherwise perfect with clear dialogue marred by only a little background hiss. No other language tracks are available. English subtitles and Closed Captioning are included.
This release features a lackluster complement of extras, with only the theatrical trailer in 1.78:1 widescreen and 2.0 audio plus screens of text containing Shakespearean facts on the writer and other real-life characters depicted in the movie. Static scene selection screens are available. A future Special Edition is planned with supplemental material that was unavailable for this release due to legal reasons.
Excellent anamorphic visual quality and a good soundtrack complement this critically acclaimed romantic comedy. Though I donít consider it my personal choice for best film of 1998, itís certainly worth seeing. Shakespeare In Love is rated "R" for mild nudity and mature themes.
- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on September 12, 1999.
1-Poor 2-Fair 3-Good 4-Excellent
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