Noel DVD Review - Widescreen Review
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Introduction & Story
Christmas Eve can be a strange and wondrous time - especially in New York City where multiple personal stories seem to connect and collide. A lonely and divorced publisher, Rose Harrison (played by Susan Sarandon) seemingly lets life pass her by as she centers her life around caring for her mother who has late stage Alzheimer's. Along the way she is drawn to show compassion for another hospital resident and meets a character played by Robin Williams. A troubled engagement relationship is called off by Nina (Penelope Cruz) as she tries to deal with her fiancé's (played by Paul Walker) overbearing jealousy. Mike, the fiancé, is stalked by Artie, an enigmatic stranger well-played by Alan Arkin. Along the way a confused and lonely youth, Jules (played by Marcus Thomas) wants to spend Christmas night in the hospital, where he seeks to revisit one of his fondest childhood memories. Nina interacts with Rose... Mike runs into Jules... Each tale bumps and intersects with the next until all are resolved by the end of the film.
Noel is actor Chazz Palminteri's feature film directing debut and he seemed to want to surround himself with an all-star cast. The difficulty is that the film is very unoriginal, and as a result, the actors are forced to breathe the life into the script that it needs to stay afloat. Lucky for him, he picked some good ones. Despite their best efforts, the end result is mostly satisfactory but not groundbreaking.
I felt the film was a bit trite at times, but still entertaining. It was utterly predictable, though still enjoyable nonetheless in a "I know I've seen this before but I don't care " kind of way. Bits and pieces of other plots were interwoven into a familiar storyline that pulled all the right heartstrings and (mostly) cast all the right characters. The rating is PG, but I felt a PG-13 rating might be better suited due to a risqué dance by Penelope Cruz and some rough language. The MPAA is getting more and more lenient each year no thanks to Victoria Secret commercials and music videos.
Prior to each review, audio and video levels are recalibrated. Video quality is maximized through the use of equipment residing in Audioholics' Reference System 2. For this review the HD M I output was utilized from a Denon DVD-5910 DVD player and output to a Yamaha LPX-510 3LCD projector. The sound was played through an RBH Sound CinemaSITE 7.1 system.
Audio quality was average for this type of film. Dialogue was understandable and surround effects, while subtle, were effective and not distracting. If you're looking for explosions and profound cinematic audio, look elsewhere. This movie is more akin to It's a Wonderful Life, but with modern actors and color. Truth be told, enhanced audio would have been distracting, so the soundtrack is perfectly suited to the script.
Video quality is average at best. The film seemed intentionally shot on the warm side to bring out the reds, but it had a tendency to be a bit soft, lacking the crisp detail seen on some of the better looking DVDs out there. There was nothing distracting about the video quality, but after seeing some of the better film transfers out there I felt that I would have liked to see more detail on the actors - especially during close-ups. If I didn't know better, some part of me thinks the aging Susan Sarandon may have not wanted the picture to be any clearer during close ups.
The sparse extras on this disc include a commentary track with Director Chazz Palminteri, Cast Filmographies (an incomplete list showing past projects for several of the characters) and some cast interviews with some behind the scenes info.
Noel (literally "Christmas") is a fun film, if a bit predictable. Viewers will find it emotional, cute, and appropriate for the season except for some rather mature sexual opening scenes parent should check out before presenting to younger members of the family. There were some neat moments and some twists that were entertaining and heartwarming. While Susan Sarandon, Alan Arkin, Robin Williams and Penelope Cruz did a fine job of taking their characters through their maturations, Paul Walker's character seemed to come across as unnatural and somewhat forced throughout the film. It is debatable as to whether this was a script or acting issue. Whether Noel stands the test of time and emerges as a classic will be up to the viewers - but I tend to think it isn't quite original enough for that.
Release Date: 10/25/05
Run time: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats: Dolby Digital 5.1