Return To Me

Return To Me (2000)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: David Duchovny, Minnie Driver
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scene, Music Video

It’s a common occurrence to hear people say, "They don’t make them like they used to." (For me, "used to" would mean the 1980s!) But, that doesn’t mean that filmmakers aren’t trying to "make them like they used to." "Return to Me" is an attempt to capture the spirit of the kind of romantic comedies which were popular in the ’50s and ’60s. The film, which stars David Duchovny and Minnie Driver, attempts to side-step any of the modern bitterness and angst which seeps into most recent love stories and present us with an innocent and hopeful love story. If this sounds like your kind of movie, then you’ll be glad to know that "Return to Me" has recently hit DVD courtesy of MGM Home Entertainment.

(SPOILER WARNING!: I went into this film knowing very little about the plot and was very shocked and surprised by some of the plot twists. However, it’s impossible to describe the film without giving away the main premise. So, proceed with caution.) As "Return to Me" opens, we are introduced to Dr. Elizabeth Rueland (Joely Richardson), a zoologist who works with primates, and her husband, Bob (David Duchovny), a successful contractor. They are a very happy couple, who are very much in love. Elizabeth is attempting to raise funding to for a new gorilla habitat, which Bob will then build. The film then shifts focus to introduce us to Grace (Minnie Driver). Grace is in the hospital, suffering from terminal heart disease. She will die if she doesn’t receive a heart transplant. On the way home from the gorilla habitat fund-raiser, Elizabeth and Bob are in an auto accident and Elizabeth is killed. Soon after, Grace receives a donor heart and successful makes it through the transplant operation.

The story then jumps ahead one year. Grace has recovered from her surgery and is working at the restaurant run by her grandfather, Marty (Caol O’Connor) and his brother in law Angelo (Robert Loggia). She is lonely, and feels that men only see her as someone with a medical condition and not a real person. Meanwhile, Bob is still grieving for Elizabeth and pours all of his energy into building the gorilla habitat. After some severe pestering by his friend Charlie (David Alan Grier), Bob agrees to go on a blind date. While the date is a nightmare, it does take place at the restaurant where Grace works. Grace and Bob meet and there are instant sparks. After a few more chance encounters, they begin to date. However, Grace is hesitant to tell Bob about her heart transplant, because she doesn’t want it to effect how he views her. Then, Grace realizes exactly who Bob is and how they are connected and she understands that there are other factors, which could hurt their relationship.

"Return to Me" is a very sweet and fun romantic comedy. Yes, the premise is very far-fetched, but you must overlook that to truly enjoy this film. This is the kind of film where true love conquers all and people lead perfect lives, despite any minor setbacks. In those respects, "Return To Me" definitely harks back to an earlier time. But, the film also has its modern touches. Elizabeth’s death comes as a great shock, and just as the viewer is reeling from that, we are then presented with Grace’s surgery and the hope that she pulls through. Also, Grace is a truly modern woman, choosing to live life on her own terms, rather than be treated like a fragile object by overly-concerned men. The film is moving and funny, and though the ending may be a little too saccharine, it fits the mood of the film.

That having been said, "Return to Me" has some problems, most of which have to do with pacing. Bonnie Hunt co-wrote and directed "Return to Me", and also has a role in the film. While her acting and writing are fine, her direction shows some newcomer faults. The first 20 minutes of the film are very gripping and the last 45 minutes (when the romance begins to blossom) are fun, but the intervening time is excruciatingly slow. It’s during this time that the characters of Marty, Angelo, and their friends at the restaurant are introduced. On the <$commentary,audio commentary>, Hunt reveals that the studio wanted these characters cut down in the film. For once, the studio was right! These scenes go on way too long and eat up time that could have been devoted to Grace and Bob. It’s obvious (both from the film and the commentary) that Hunt was taken with these older men and wanted to leave them in the film. They work fine as side characters, but the film grinds to a halt when they dominate a scene. We came to see a romantic comedy, not a debate about dead singers. If you feel like turning off "Return To Me" during the first hour, don’t give up. It will get better.

David Duchovny, best known for his work on "The X-Files" is very good as Bob Rueland. This role gives him a chance to play a character that is totally different from Fox Mulder. Bob goes through every emotion in the film, and Duchovny handles most of them quite well. Also, there are a few opportunities for him to slip him the dry humor that he’s famous for. Minnie Driver is good as Grace, balancing a strong-willed young woman with someone who has faced death and is unsure of herself at times. David Alan Grier is hilarious as the womanizing smart-aleck Charlie, who is always trying to put one over on Bob. Jim Belushi has a minor role in the film and actually steals the show. These words have probably never been seen in print before, but the film would have been even better if there had been more shirtless Jim Belushi.

"Return to Me" arrives on DVD compliments of MGM Home Entertainment, and offers a mixed bag of features. The film is presented in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> and is <$PS,letterboxed> at 1.85:1. The image is very crisp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain during the daytime scenes. There are no overt defects from the source print present. The framing of the picture appears to be accurate, and there are no obvious defects created by compression problems or artifacting. Hunt’s naturalistic style has given the film a nice color palette, which is nicely represented by the green plants in Grace’s garden and the gowns at the fundraiser. Also, there are many nighttime scenes in the film, and these feature true blacks, which give a nice depth of field to the picture. Overall, this is a very nice transfer.

A <$DD,Dolby Digital> 5.1 soundtrack graces the "Return to Me" DVD and serves the picture quite well. The all-important dialogue is always intelligible and clear, and there is no audible hiss on the soundtrack. The original score by Nicholas Pike, as well as the many traditional tunes in the film, comes across very well in this audio mix. As with most films of this nature, "Return to Me" features little surround sound action, save for musical cues and crowd noise.

As hinted at earlier, the "Return to Me" DVD contains an <$commentary,audio commentary> featuring co-writer/director/actress Bonnie Hunt and co-writer Don Lake. This is a warm and engaging commentary, as the duo speak very openly about the material and the actors involved with the film. It’s obvious that Hunt and Lake are very comfortable with one another and there is some good-natured teasing between the two. At the outset of the commentary, Hunt mentions that she hopes the viewer has already seen the film so that they will understand the comments. That being said, there are several dramatic scenes where Hunt and Lake are silent because they don’t want to break the tension of the scene. Guess what? We’ve seen the movie! Feel free to talk! Those silent patches are really the only problem with this otherwise charming commentary.

The DVD also features one deleted scene, which features Marty, Angelo and company, singing "Danny Boy". It’s totally understandable why this scene was cut. The only other special feature is a music video featuring singer Joseph Gian (who appears in the film) and was directed by Hunt. One can’t help but wonder why MGM Home Entertainment didn’t include other standard special features such as a theatrical trailer or cast & crew biographies. Their absence gives one the feeling that something is missing.

For those of you searching for a light, romantic comedy that will allow you to escape from your life for a short time, "Return to Me" just might be the ticket. The film is fun and funny, and if you can make it through the first hour, you’ll probably end up liking it. The DVD brings us a very nice transfer of the film, but the disc is noticeably shorn of any significant extras. David Duchovny fans should definitely check out "Return to Me" to see what he looks like when he’s chasing women instead of aliens. True love is out there.