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BRIDE AND PREJUDICE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:   Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Naveen Andrews, Namrata Shirodkar, Nitin Chandra Ganatra
Director:  Gurinder Chadha
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Miramax
Features:  See Review
Length:  112 Minutes
Release Date:  July 5, 2005

"What did he say to you?"

"He said...he loved me."

"And what did you say?"

Film ***1/2

British sensibilities meet Indian heritage in Gurinder Chadha's Bride and Prejudice, a colorful, rollicking update on the classic story by Jane Austen.  It's musical, romantic, whimsical, and kind of a much-ado-about-nothing in the margins, but carried off with such splendor, style and humor that you can't help but love it.

It stars international beauty Aishwarya Rai as Lalita Bakshi, one of four daughters of a middle class family in India whose parents are desperately trying to find good husbands for them.  Her older sister Jaya (Shirodkar) seems to have made an excellent conquest in Balraj (Andrews), an Indian expatriate from Britain who comes into their town with an American college friend, Will Darcy (Henderson).

Darcy is the heir to a hotel empire in the United States, and seems an ill fit for the colorful, earthy traditions of India.  But his eyes light up upon meeting Lalita, though he doesn't have the first clue about how to romance a girl like her.  Lalita in turn finds his pompous rigid ways an affront to everything she holds dear.  Will these star crossed lovers manage to make their way through colorful boundaries and find true love?

Possibly...but not before a comic misadventures of lost opportunities and miscommunications unfolds, one that takes the Bakshi family around the globe from their beloved India to London, and eventually to California, where another rich expatriate (the hilarious Ganatra) has embraced American decadence to a truly silly level and has hopes of scoring a bride of his own.

The story is familiar, but the international cast makes the characters seem more alive than they might have come across on a simple page.  Gurinder Chadha, who captured the world's attention with the ethnically centered but still extremely accessible Bend it Like Beckham ventures further into cultural waters here, and manages to come up with a film even more memorable and audience-friendly.

She managed to turn the Austen tale into a film from the annals of Bollywood.  Bride is peppered with energetic musical numbers, lively dancing, and amusing songs sung by the cast.  "No Life Without Wife" will bring a smile to your face, not so much for the lyrics, but for the panache the Bakshi girls bring in singing it.

Aishwarya Rai has been called by Roger Ebert the first AND second most beautiful woman in the world.  I didn't quite get it at first, but seeing this movie convinced me that one spot on the chart wasn't enough for her loveliness and grace.  Already the biggest movie star in her homeland, I don't doubt that the international success of this film will open more doors to her, and those of us in the West won't have to wait long to see her again.

Martin Henderson brings a likeable and somewhat hesitant charm to Will Darcy.  These two stars crossed hemispheres and found a winning chemistry with one another...it's part of the reason the simple story is as effective as it is. 

I enjoyed the film and the characters so much, I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel picking up where they left off.  Let's see...how about Bride and Prejudice II:  Bride Harder?  I guess that's why Chadha makes the movies and I write the reviews...

Video ****

The colors leap off the screen and fill you living room with this knockout anamorphic transfer from Miramax.  Every frame of the movie is alive and vibrant, and every detail rings through with crispness and clarity.  This is definitely one of the year's best, and I'm personally VERY grateful that a hacked-up pan & scan version of this title doesn't exist.

Audio ****

Four stars in audio for a romantic comedy?  Yes, thanks to the frequently thunderous and rhythmic music of the song and dance numbers.  The hard hitting percussion booms from the subwoofer, and the singing and dancing will fill all corners of your home theatre to the point where you're ready to get up and join in the festivities.  Dynamic range is strong, and spoken words are clean and clear throughout, even with the occasional accent.

Features ***1/2

Included in the extras are four deleted scenes and six extended musical numbers to keep the fun rolling along after the credits have rolled.  There is a making-of featurette and two conversation pieces; one with Aishwarya Rai and one with Martin Henderson.  There is a music video by Ashanti and an amusing video piece that shows members of the crew acting out and singing some of the film's big musical numbers...funny stuff; it must be great fun to work on a Gurinder Chadha film!

Oh, and there's also a commentary from Chadha and her co-writer Paul Mayeda Berges that takes you even further into the making of a movie that spanned three continents and brought together some of the biggest stars of three different countries.  It's a good and often funny listen.

Summary:

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks...Jane Austen's work has never been so vibrantly colorful and whimsically entertaining as it is in Bride and Prejudice.  This is a bona fide crowd pleaser on a superb DVD that will find its way into your player time and time again.

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