The Family Stone appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a decent transfer but not one that seemed up to par for a recent film.
A few concerns connected to sharpness occurred. At times the movie became a bit soft and indistinct. However, it usually remained reasonably concise and accurate. I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, but a little edge enhancement occurred. Source flaws never appeared during this clean transfer.
Colors looked natural but subdued. The movie favored the slightest hint of stylization, as it went for moderately golden tones. Within that realm, the hues were lively and warm. Blacks seemed too deep and dense, as they lacked detail. Shadows were also a bit tough to discern due to the thickness of the dark tones. Neither problem was severe, but I thought the movie seemed somewhat too dim. This meant the visuals ended up with a “C+”.
Given the subject matter, I anticipated little from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Family Stone, and the mix matched my expectations. The soundscape usually remained modest and focused on gentle environmental information. Not much activity emerged from this subdued piece, and I thought it came across as a little too “speaker-specific”. Elements stayed in their areas without the smoothness I’d expect, as they didn’t blend together well. The surrounds lacked much involvement and never stood out as anything noticeable. A bar sequence was the liveliest due to music, but even it didn’t go much of anywhere.
Audio quality was positive. Speech seemed natural and crisp, with no edginess. Effects were clean and accurate, while music sounded smooth and concise. Low-end response was perfectly adequate. This was a more than acceptable mix for a low-key movie.
Quite an extensive roster of extras rounds out the DVD. We open with two separate audio commentaries. The first presents actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Dermot Mulroney, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. Early on, Parker states that “this commentary’s gonna be helpful to no one”. Rarely have truer words been spoken, as this is a truly useless commentary.
At times the actors tell us a little about the shoot. We learn about cold days and a few other very minor nuggets. Virtually none of this seems informative or interesting. Instead, Parker giggles a lot while Mulroney spouts double entendres about Parker’s “bun”. Tons of dead air occurs, but even when they speak, they tell us nothing. Even if you loved the film – or perhaps especially if you loved the film – skip this worthless waste of 103 minutes.
For the second commentary, we get details from writer/director Thomas Bezucha, producer Michael London, editor Jeffrey Ford and production designer Jane Ann Stewart. All four sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. While not a classic, this piece certainly offers a lot more good details than its predecessor.
A mix of expected topics appear. We hear about the story, characters, and cut sequences, locations, the house set and production design elements, the movie’s color palette and other visual concerns, cast and performances, real life influences and general production material. These offer a reasonably good overview of the various issues.
One major complaint: the ridiculous amount of praise on display. From start to finish, we hear incessant remarks about how much everyone loves everything involved with the flick. Even if I liked Stone, I’d have gotten sick of the never-ending happy talk. Those elements mar the commentary, but it includes enough worthwhile material to merit a listen.
Six Deleted Scenes last a total of five minutes, 38 seconds. As you can tell by the running times, we don’t find a lot of content here. Each adds a smidgen of character information but not enough to add much to the film. We can watch these with or without commentary from Bezucha and Ford. They give us a few notes about the scenes and let us know why they cut all of them. Their remarks are helpful,
Two Fox Movie Channel featurettes ensue. Casting Session runs eight minutes, two seconds and shows the usual mix of movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from London, Bezucha, Parker, actors Luke Wilson and Diane Keaton, and casting director Mindy Marin. They provide a few basic plot notes and tell us how much trouble the film had it coming to the screen. Then they tell us a little about casting, rehearsals and performances. This show essentially exists as a promotional piece, but it’s breezy and gives us a mix of nice insights.
Called World Premiere, the second featurette lasts six minutes, six seconds. Logically shot outside the movie’s premiere, it features “red carpet” statements from Keaton, London, Bezucha, Parker, Mulroney, and actors Brian White, Ty Giordano, Craig T. Nelson, and Elizabeth Reaser. They spew of fluffy talk and don’t provide any insights. However, it’s a hoot to see Nelson’s bizarre receding hairline mullet.
The October 5, 2005: Q&A with Cast at the Screen Actors Guild Theater fills seven minutes, 59 seconds. We find notes from Mulroney, Parker, Wilson, Giordano, and actors Rachel McAdams and Claire Danes. They discuss what attracted them to their characters and elements of their performances, thoughts about other cast members, locations, using sign language, and interactions on the set. Not much real information occurs, but this becomes a very entertaining piece, mostly due to the amusing anecdotes told by Wilson; he single-handedly turns this into a solid featurette.
A Behind the Scenes featurette runs 17 minutes and 52 seconds. It includes info from Bezucha, Danes, Wilson, Mulroney, Keaton, McAdams, Parker, Giordano, London, Nelson, Stewart, costume designer Shay Cunliffe, and actor Savannah Stehlin. They discuss the story, the fictional characters and the subject of general family dynamics, the actors’ interactions and performances, choosing when to use sign language, production design and costumes, and the film’s themes. Inevitably, we get a modicum of plot rehash and promotional material. To my surprise, though, the piece also includes some decent insights. It covers some issues not discussed elsewhere and proves reasonably valuable.
Next we find a five-minute and 46-second Gag Reel. Should you expect anything more than the standard allotment of giggles and goofs? Nope.
If you want to make Meredith’s Strata, the text recipe appears here. Finally, the DVD includes three Trailers for Stone as well as ads for Confetti, Little Manhattan and Just My Luck.
To my very pleasant surprise, all of the extras on the DVD come with optional English subtitles. I can’t remember the last Fox release to do so, and the text even accompanies both commentaries. Very nice!
Too bad The Family Stone itself didn’t come as a surprise, pleasant or otherwise. An absolutely dreadful family melodrama that pounds emotional buttons with absurd urgency, it never threatens to become anything more than sappy schlock. The DVD offers fairly average picture and audio along with a fairly good roster of extras despite the presence of an unlistenable actors’ track. Overall, this is an unexceptional DVD for a terrible movie.