• Smile (Fun City Editions) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Fun City Editions
    Released on: April 22nd, 2021.
    Director: Michael Ritchie
    Cast: Bruce Dern, Barbara Feldon, Michael Kidd, Geoffrey Lewis, Melanie Griffith
    Year: 1975
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    Smile – Movie Review:

    Directed by Michael Ritchie (shortly before he made The Bad News Bears!) and written by Jerry Belson, 1975's Smile revolves around the seventh annual Santa Rosa Jaycee's American Junior Miss beauty pageant. Thirty young women from around the area make up the contestants (a few of whom are played by Melanie Griffith, Annette O’Toole and Colleen Camp), and we quickly learn that not all of them are as confident about their chances or as comfortable about what they're going to have to go through to win as some of the other ones are. They all want to win, but some will go to more drastic lengths to do it than their competitors.

    And then there are the organizers. Tommy (Michael Kidd) is in charge of the dance routines and he's more than a little thin skinned and uptight. Ex-pageant winner Brenda DiCarlo (Barbara Feldon) is all business on the outside, but there might be more to her than we first realize. Big Bob Freelander (Bruce Dern) is an RV salesman by trade, and he takes his duties as a judge very seriously. His son, Little Bob (Eric Shea) and his friends, however, can't get enough of the lovely contestants gathered for the competition and wind up getting themselves into a bit of trouble. As the pageant draws nearer, everyone's stress levels start to spike as relationships are formed and upset, girls get hung up on winning and the organizers deal with various problems of their own.

    While Smile isn’t really a forgotten film, it is a film that probably should be better known (or better remembered, depending on your age!) than it is. Ritchie directs with style and confidence, flowing out the plot at a pitch-perfect pace and ensuring that we get the right amount of character development in here as well. Jerry Belson’s script is clever, genuinely funny and well thought out, and both the cinematography and the score are top notch here. This wasn’t a movie made with a massive budget but it doesn’t need to be a fancy, splashy film to work. By focusing on the human element, Ritchie and Belson mange to create film that’s easy to get involved in and, in many ways, to relate to as well. Even if you’ve never been in a beauty pageant (it’s probably safe to assume that most of us have not, though it is a fact that R!S!P! reader do tend to be much better looking than average) there are moments here that translate to everyday life.

    Ritchie was lucky enough to work with a fantastic cast here as well. Bruce Dern steals a few scenes, doing excellent work as the quirky Big Bob, and he has an interesting relationship with Eric Shea as his son. There are some great moments here. Michael Kidd and Barbara Feldon are also very strong, while Melanie Griffith, Annette O’Toole and Colleen Camp are all really, really good as the of the contestants.

    Smile – Blu-ray Review:

    Smile comes to region A Blu-ray taken from a “new 2K restoration from its 35mm interpositive” framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc, with the feature taking up 33.3GBs of space. This quality of the picture on this release is excellent, always nice and film-like, with the expected amount of natural grain but very little actual print damage. Colors look perfect, black levels are nice and deep and skin tones look good. Contrast is solid and we get nice depth and detail here. Great stuff, a very impressive transfer.

    The only audio option is handled by a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 track. Optional subtitles are offered in English only and a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 track, also in English, is also included on the disc. No problems with the audio to note, the dialogue is easy to understand and follow, there’s a bit of depth to the score and effects and the track is free of any hiss or distortion.

    The main extra on the disc is a newly recorded audio commentary by actor-filmmaker Pat Healy and film curator Jim Healy of the UW Cinematic and Madison Film Festival. They note how much of the film is based on true things that Ritchie and writer Jerry Belson had witnessed or seen, where you might recognize some of the actors from, the way that the film treats beauty pageants in the film and the timeliness of the film. Lots of information here about the cast and crew, who did what behind the scenes, details on Michael Ritchie's background and his intentions to 'find the truth' in his work, the quality of the cinematography and production values in the picture, Jerry Belson's career and work and lots more. There is some dead air here and there but overall this is a pretty informative listen.

    The disc also includes Dernsie’s Credo, a newly filmed interview with actor Bruce Dern that runs that runs just short of twenty-eight-minutes in length. He talks very candidly about his character in the film and the era in which it was made (it was made during Nixon's impeachment trial) and how this reflects that era. He talks about doing the film after a play he was in closed, what it was like working with Michael Ritchie, the film's modest budget, the film's rushed production schedule, what it was like working with the other cast and crew members in the production, his thoughts on the beauty pageant scene, Ritchie's unique sense of humor, locations that were used and lost more. Dern's a great storyteller and he's a lot of fun to listen to here – “The point is, we did stuff!”

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a theatrical trailer for the feature, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Fun City Editions have also included with this Blu-ray a nice full color insert booklet with a new essay by the late Mike ‘McBeardo’ McPadden that, like so much of his work, is well-written, full of personality and worth reading. There’s also some nice reversible cover sleeve art included with this release.

    Smile - The Final Word:

    Smile is a really well-made movie. It’s funny, intelligent and it features some really strong production values and some great acting. Fun City Editions has done a really great job bringing this underappreciate gem of seventies cinema to Blu-ray with a great presentation and some nice extras too. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Smile Blu-ray screen caps!