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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

Review by Ed Nguyen

Stars: Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman, Peter Gallagher, Peter Boyle
Director: Jon Turteltaub
Audio: English, French Dolby digital stereo 2.0
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Video: Color, non-anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Hollywood Pictures (Disney)
Features: Trailer, list of films
Length: 103 minutes
Release Date: February 4, 2003 (re-issue)

"I've had a really lousy Christmas, you've just managed to kill my New Year's, if you come back on Easter, you can burn down my apartment."

Film ***

I don't consider myself a Sandra Bullock fan.  I usually find her films to be light-weight, inconsequential fluff-pieces.  Then again, I own (cough) four of her films on DVD.  And, uh, I have seen at least (cough cough) nine of her films.

Alas, I come from the same self-deluded male demography that claims to prefer sci-fi action flicks to Sandra comedies.  So, how is it that we always seem to end up watching her movies?

Directed by Jon Turteltaub (what? turtle tub? what?), While You Were Sleeping is another of Sandra Bullock's typically light but entertaining fare.  Despite my adamant eye-rolling resolve, I ultimately found myself enjoying this film immensely.  In fact, it is now my favorite Sandra Bullock film and, as I have discovered, a favorite of many other folks as well.

What is this film's broad appeal?  First of all, it was released shortly after Bullock's success in Demolition Cop and Speed.  It was made at the very height of her popularity and cast her in the role of a lovelorn and charming but awkward lead character, Lucy.  It is the sort of role in which Sandra Bullock excels so well.  One could argue that all of her consequent film characters have been merely variations on this character of Lucy.

Lucy is a token collector at a train station.  She is a loner.  Even on holidays, she works because she has no one with whom to spend the holidays.  All she has is a cat named "Mouse."  Her dream is to travel someday to Italy just so she can have a stamp in her passport.  All in all, Lucy leads a simple but unfulfilling and empty life.

One day during the holiday season, a handsome young stranger, Peter (Peter Gallagher), a.k.a. Lucy's Prince Charming, falls upon the tracks.  He is knocked unconscious, and Lucy, seeing this, bravely leaps into the path of an on-coming train, pulling Peter to safety in the nick of time.  When she accompanies him to the hospital, the staff and his family mistakenly assume that she is his fiancée before she can correct them.  And since Peter is now comatose, he is not able to clarify the situation, either.

Well, the hows and whys of this setup aren't important.  It's just a comedy, so go with the flow!  Lucy does so (reluctantly, at first), but as she spends more time with Peter's family, she begins to realize just what a wonderful and warm feeling it is to belong and to have someone.  Soon, she enjoys the company of the entire family so much that she finds herself unable to reveal the truth.

Of course, trouble arrives.  Jack (Bill Pullman), Peter's brother, appears.  He is dubious of Lucy, finding her to be hardly his brother's type.  Jack launches a few amusing schemes to uncover Lucy's true intentions but along the way, ends up falling for her himself.  Lucy begins to fall for Jack as well.  This being a romantic comedy, there are some mishaps, some misunderstandings, and many comic situations along the way.  And of course, to complicate matters, Peter eventually recovers from his coma.  But, by now, if you haven't already guessed the foregone conclusion to this tale, you need a remedial course in Hollywood Romantic Comedy 101.

In many of her films, Sandra Bullock has a very likeable screen persona.  She is charming yet clumsy.  She is cute and cuddly, if not always very bright.  She exudes an undeniable sense of fun, even when her material is atrocious (as it nearly always is).  I imagine that if she had been a movie star in the 1930's, Sandra Bullock could have made a fine screwball comedy star.

Fortunately, While You Were Sleeping presents Sandra Bullock with her best comedic material.  I won't kid you - most of Sandra Bullock's films stink like rotten ostrich eggs.  Trust me, I've seen enough of them to know that.  And I'll probably see a bunch more because I've already been brainwashed.  But, if there's one Sandra Bullock film (besides Speed) that is really worth seeing, it is While You Were Sleeping.  There is nothing particularly awe-inspiring about this film.  It's just a simple, fun comedy about two people falling in love, but in the end, its heart-felt charm will completely captivate you.

Video **1/2

While You Were Sleeping is presented in a non-anamorphic widescreen format.  There is a trace of grain in the image that occasionally calls attention to itself.  Some shimmer is present but otherwise, the transfer is stable if a bit on the soft side.  Color fidelity is good with bright contrasts.  Overall, a decent but not spectacular transfer.

Audio **1/2

The Dolby stereo 2.0 audio is just fine.  As a romantic comedy, this film has no aspirations to awe us with a spectacular sonic display.  A surround 5.1 track might have been nice but would not have made any difference in the final equation.

Features 1/2 *

There is a trailer which merrily proceeds to gives away the entire plot.  If you like your films completely spoiled, by all means watch the trailer before watching the film.  And if you like the movie, there is also a list of six other films which Disney strongly recommends, although they have absolutely nothing in common, theme or genre-wise, with While You Were Sleeping.  That's Hollywood marketing for you!

Summary:

I've been sucker-punched yet again by another Sandra Bullock chick flick!  Resistance is futile, so you might as well check out While You Were Sleeping, too.  The enjoyable film is loads of wholesome fun for the entire family, retaining its charm with every re-watching.  For what it's worth, my mother and sister both give While You Were Sleeping two thumbs up!