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The Last Kiss

(2006) ** 1/2 R
104 min. Paramount Pictures. Director: Tony Goldwyn. Cast: Zach Braff, Jacinda Barrett, Casey Affleck, Rachel Bilson, Blythe Danner, Tom Wilkinson, Marley Shelton, Harold Ramis.

/content/films/2673/1.jpgGrowing up isn't easy, especially for men with Peter Pan Syndrome. Women are irritating harpies; men are self-serving shits who need to be trained to follow their hearts and not their dicks. In a nutshell, that's the premise of both the Italian film L'Ultimo Bacio and its Hollywood remake The Last Kiss. Neither is wholly convincing, but the Hollywood version is somewhat less so, thanks to a needling script by Paul Haggis (Million Dollar Baby).

At least The Last Kiss isn't afraid of exploding romantic conventions--um, at least not at first. The story concerns a group of four male friends and the women who sort of love them. Michael (Zach Braff of Scrubs) and Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) are at a crossroads of commitment. Though unmarried, they're expecting a child and, thus, Jenna is expecting Michael to sign on to a lifelong partnership. About to turn thirty, Michael confesses--though not always to his wife--that he's scared that his life is over; he can see it stretching out with no more surprises. Lending Michael her pretty little ears at a mutual friend's wedding is chance acquaintance Kim (Rachel Bilson). "Everyone I know is having a crisis," she reassures him. "I know you're not supposed to get them till mid-life, but I think something's happened to our metabolisms." Soon, Michael is contemplating an escapist affair with the college girl who, he tells himself, understands him. As she puts it to him, "Relationships, they either work or they don't. I could be your last chance at happiness."

Meanwhile, Michael's friends have problems of their own: Kenny (Olsen) is beginning to wonder if he can keep up his life of spectacular non-commital sex, or if perhaps there's something more; Izzy (Michael Weston) is still hung up on his ex of six weeks Arianna (Marley Shelton); Chris (Affleck) feels trapped and harangued by his wife Lisa (Lauren Lee Smith), with whom he's raising their ten-month-old boy. Furthermore, Jenna's parents are on the rocks: Anna (Blythe Danner) has had it up to there with Stephen (Tom Wilkinson). The latter has a history of infidelity, and the former resents not taking her chance with an old friend (Harold Ramis) who once tempted her.

Haggis touches on men's propensity for younger women and tendency to build relationships on a foundation of barely veiled misogyny ("She's perfect. She's beautiful. She's like a guy. What more could you ask for?"). The film's two-week period has at least a year's worth of drama crammed into it, as characters all simultaneously melt down, but The Last Kiss forgoes gut-level impact in favor mostly of bow-tied denouements for each character. I suppose it's a good thing that The Last Kiss comes out in favor of maturity, but the key to the picture resides in the portent of the elder couple, whose unconvincing reconciliation hardly seems advisable.

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Aspect ratios: 2.35:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Street date: 4/14/2009

Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Though there's a hint of noise in some backgrounds, the hi-def upgrade of The Last Kiss is a noticeable improvement from the previous DVD edition. The image is film-like, and colors are well defined, contributing to a solid overall sense of dimensionality that handly beats lo-def. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix could have used a bit of pumping up, but since the dialogue-driven film is mostly rather quiet to begin with, it's not a big issue.

All previous bonus features are ported over here, beginning with an audio commentary by Zach Braff and director Tony Goldwyn and a second audio commentary by Braff, Goldwyn, Jacinda Barrett, Rachel Bilson, Michael Weston and Eric Christian Olsen. The first is, naturally, more focused, and more informative about the filmmaking process, though some will improve the party tone of the second track.

"The Last Kiss-Filmmakers' Perspective" (2:33, SD) sits down producer Gary Lucchesi and Goldwyn to discuss the conceptualization of the film.

"The Last Kiss-Getting Together" (26:44, SD) allows Lucchesi, Goldwyn, screenwriter Paul Haggis, Braff,  Barrett, Bilson, Lauren Lee Smith, Weston, Marley Shelton, Olsen, Blythe Danner, and Tom Wilkinson to explain how they came to the film and what they brought to the characters.

"The Last Kiss-Behind Our Favorite Scenes" (8:27, SD) finds Braff, Bilson, Barrett, Danner, Wilkinson, Lucchesi, and Goldwyn sharing their faves.

"The Last Kiss-Last Thoughts" (3:29, SD) tacks on a few more tidbits from Lucchesi, Barrett, Affleck, Shelton, Olsen, Danner, and Goldwyn.

Rounding out the disc are "Music Video: Cary Brothers 'Ride' Performance version with Zach Braff intro" (3:25, SD), seven "Deleted Scenes" (14:07 with "Play All" option, SD), the "Gag Reel" (2:44, SD) and the "Theatrical Trailer" (2:34, HD).

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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