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My Girl (1991)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/17/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Sydny Long, Posted on 3/16/2015
What is a family movie? For years now, the movie industry has been inundated with a glut of self-proclaimed "family movies", typically identifiable by incompetent parents, sassy kids, or talking pets. While these films definitely service their younger audiences, they fail to factor in the entire family. Teenagers and parents are rarely, if ever, entertained by the clichéd exploits of chatty dogs and obnoxiously precocious children. However, there is another brand of family movie that aims a bit higher, and often yields a more appreciated result. These are usually the more mature entries that never pander to the children or exclude the adults from the viewing experience; they often address more serious subjects as well. In the grand scheme of family movies, My Girl definitely falls into the latter category and earns its title of a film for the entire family.
My Girl opens in the summer of 1972 and follows eleven-year-old Vada Sultenfuss (Anna Chlumsky) through the season. Vada is a tomboyish, creative hypochondriac who lives with her preoccupied father Harry (Dan Aykroyd) and dementia-wracked grandmother (Ann Nelson) in the family's funeral parlor. She spends her days playing with— and occasionally torturing— her shy, nerdy best friend, Thomas J. (Macauly Culkin). Her life is radically changed when Shelly Devoto (Jamie Lee Curtis), a cosmetologist, comes to town in a mobile home and applies for a job as a make-up artist at the parlor. While Vada initially takes a shining to Shelly, her opinion changes when Shelly becomes romantically involved with her father. Vada's life becomes complicated by this budding relationship, her crush on her English and creative writing teacher, and a tragic accident that forces her to confront her fear of death and loneliness.
While the cinematic and literary worlds are both deluged with coming-of-age stories, so rarely do they focus on preteen girls in a mature, dignified way. My Girl reflects the better male-centric stories of its kind (Robert McCammon's novel Boy's Life, Stand By Me, etc.) and takes it a step further by confronting the awkward developments Vada faces as she leaves childhood for teen hood, including her first period and her first kiss. The unflinching evaluation of these events, as well as the realistic portrayal of Vada's fear of death and hypochondrias, gives the movie a more grounded, mature tone. There are very few moments of excess whimsy or imagination, which might bore especially young viewers. It is a movie primarily about a child, but set in an adult world.
The movie itself is not quite as effortlessly endearing and interesting as the characters. It lends itself to an episodic format that is never dull, but can sometimes drag a bit and leave the viewer wondering if the film will ever happen along a storyline. There isn't much of a plot: Vada spends her days with Thomas J or at the creative writing class taught by her beloved teacher (which demonstrates the perils of letting an eleven-year-old attend a class alongside hippies and beatniks). In lieu of a plot, the film narrows in on its characters, each of which are multi-faceted and impressively dynamic. In a cinematic world filled with similar movies that feature boring, flat characters, this is immensely appreciated.
So is My Girl really a family movie? The jury is out. Watching it with my family was an enjoyable experience, even through the traumatic ending, which left every one of us weepy. However, both my sister and I are teenagers and could handle it. Parents who want to show it to preteens going through similar experiences or even younger children should be prepared to have a serious discussion afterwards about death and family changes (the film does itself a favor by making the new stepmother affectionate, not evil). But if they are mature enough to soldier through the sadness, they will find it a sweet, honest film that finds its voice through its wonderful characters and candid depiction of growing up.
My Girl has to bee seen to bee bee-lieved on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. At the outset, the image is incredibly grainy, but following the credit sequence, things settled down and the grain is fairly mild, but still visible. There are no defects from the source materials, and the image is sharp. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture is a bit soft at times, bu tthe depth is good, as the actors stand out from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.2 Mbps. (Actually, it's a nearly constant 2.1 Mbps.) The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a rather sedate track with the only notable surround effects coming during a scene with fireworks. Otherwise, we are treated to clean dialogue and a few stereo effects.
The My Girl Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer Laurice Elehwany. "A Day on Set" (5 minutes) is broken into two parts, "First Kiss" and "Bingo". These segments are simply comprised of "fly on the wall" footage showing the actors and crew at work. It does not include any interviews or narration. "Original Behind the Scenes Featurette" (6 minutes) is an EPK from 1991 which offers clips, interview with Chlumsky, Culkin, Aykroyd, Curtis, and Director Howard Zieff, who discuss the characters and the story. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2015 by Mike Long