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WARNER

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Various
Cast:
Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer
Writing Credits:
Various

Tagline:
Everyone needs friends!

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.0
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 576 min.
Price: $44.98
Release Date: 4/6/2004

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary on Three Episodes
• “Friends of Friends” Video Guestbook
• “Gunther Spills the Beans” Featurette
• Cast and Crew
• Gag Reel
• “Monica’s Wedding Book Challenge” Trivia Game


COMPARE DVD PRICES

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Friends: The Complete Seventh Season (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 15, 2004)

With only a few weeks until Friends ceases to exist as a working production, we take a look back at the series’ seventh season. Aired during 2000-2001, I’ll offer brief discussions of all the episodes, listed in their broadcast order. The synopses come straight from the package’s liner notes. Many of the episodes include footage cut for their broadcast appearances. This means the running times vary. I’ll include the length of each episode on the DVDs. (For reference, a standard broadcast program lasts about 22 minutes. However, some of Season Seven’s shows were “supersized”, so they already ran notably longer than usual.)

Disc One:

The One with Monica’s Thunder (23:19): “Minutes after Chandler (Matthew Perry) proposes to Monica (Courtney Cox-Arquette), she plans to celebrate on the town with her pals – until she catches Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) kissing.”

Mindset warning: before I started with Friends, I just finished a marathon session with Freaks and Geeks. It’s a big leap from the latter’s more reality-based comedy/drama to the joke-oriented world of Friends, so it might take me a few episodes to adapt.

That’s one potential reason why “Thunder” seemed somewhat lackluster. Of course, it’s also possible that it’s just not a great episode. The show had some potential, but outside of Joey’s attempts to seem young, it never went much of anywhere.

The One with Rachel’s Book (24:51): “Monica’s dream of elaborate nuptials fizzles when she learns what her parents have done with her wedding fund. Rachel is embarrassed when a teasing Joey (Matt LeBlanc) stumbles onto her juicy late-night reading material.”

Reason I fear for Season Seven: I don’t look forward to hours of planning connected to Monica and Chandler’s wedding, especially when we see mushy scenes where he gives up six years of saving for the occasion. Despite that theme, “Book” seems pretty good. I do like the throwaway gag that Ross claims he originally thought of the premise for Jurassic Park, especially since the chalkboard in the background elaborates on this topic. The episode tosses in some other good gags and fares as a generally solid show.

The One with Phoebe’s Cookies(21:12): “Chandler’s bonding attempt with his future father-in-law (Elliott Gould) during a close sauna encounter backfires. Monica tries to replicate Phoebe’s (Lisa Kudrow) grandmother’s secret cookie recipe by deconstructing her one last cookie.”

”Cookies” goes for a lot of broad gags, but most of them succeed. The plot with Chandler seems to be the feeblest, but even if offers some nice laughs. It’s also amusing to see the usually weak-willed Rachel tell off Joey on the boat, and the twist to finish off the cookie story also works.

The One with Rachel’s Assistant (22:40): “When Rachel is promoted, she gleefully considers hiring an inexperienced hunk (Eddie Cahill) as her executive assistant. In a free-for-all tell-all game, Chandler and Monica expose humiliating secrets from each other’s pasts.”

Wishy-washy Rachel returns with a bang in “Assistant”, but those moments don’t totally catch fire. Aniston gets some good moments as she tries to cover her tracks with her friends, but I can’t help but think that a) “Tag” really isn’t as stunning as everyone acts, and b) “Tag” is the silliest name I’ve heard in a while. The battle of the secrets has potential it only fitfully matches as well.

The One with the Engagement Picture (22:58): “Unphotogenic Chandler can’t get a good photo taken with Monica. Rachel plans to get closer to her hunky assistant by encouraging him to hang out with Joey, but the plan sours when he picks up on Joey’s moves.”

As one who hates to have my picture taken, I can relate to Chandler’s issues, so those moments work nicely, and the gag pays off well in the end. In addition, it’s funny to see Phoebe and Ross argue as surrogates for their current dating partners who used to be married. It’s a good episode.

The One with the Nap Partners (24:12): “Monica frets when she meets one of Chandler’s long-lost girlfriends (Stacy Galina) and learns that he dumped her because she was fat. Phoebe and Rachel vie for the honor of becoming Monica’s bridesmaid.”

The nap story seems a little silly, but the competition to choose the maid of honor offers some fine moments. The plot about Chandler’s prior tackiness steers clear of sappiness and manages to seem pretty funny, especially when it takes some creative turns.

Footnote: in a Friends first, we see some nudity in this episode. Chandler watches Bikini Carwash Company on cable, and we actually see some real skin on display. Obviously this clip is part of the added footage that never saw the airwaves.

Disc Two:

The One with Ross’s Library Book (23:55): “When Joey decides to stop dating a girl that Rachel and Phoebe have come to adore, the ladies take action to change his mind. Ross fumes when he discovers the location of his dissertation in the university library.”

After seven years, it feels like Friends started to repeat storylines. Didn’t we have a show in earlier years where the friends loved somebody that Monica dated? Something like that occurred, and it gets echoed here with Joey’s story, though it takes an unusual twist. Still, the show offers some decent laughs and seems generally satisfying.

The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs (24:01): “A beaming Rachel is happily surprised when her assistant Tag shows up at the gang’s Thanksgiving dinner, forcing Chandler to confess why he hates dogs.”

Thanksgiving episodes usually shine, but this one seems a little flat. It has some good moments but it doesn’t match up with the series’ usually high standards for the holiday. Still, a show in which Joey thinks there are 56 states can’t be too bad.

The One with All the Candy (22:50): “Monica whips up some holiday candy for the neighbors. Rachel and Tag set the ground rules for their new romance. Moved by Phoebe’s bikeless childhood story, Ross buys her a new two-wheeler.”

Not surprisingly, the plot about Rachel and Tag proves the least interesting, largely because Tag displays the personality of a damp sponge. However, Phoebe’s line seems pretty amusing, and the candy theme offers some warped laughs. The mania inspired by Monica’s candy provides lots of fun and helps make this a solid show.

The One with the Holiday Armadillo (23:15): “Ross wants to introduce his son Ben (Cole Mitchell Sprouse) to Chanukah. In order to entice Rachel to move back into their refurbished apartment, Phoebe must drive a wedge between Rachel and current roomie Joey.”

One of the most cutesy episodes of Friends in a while, “Armadillo” loses massive points because of the annoying Ben and the absurdly lame Holiday Armadillo. Those sequences feel cheesy and flop. On the other hand, Chandler’s pathetic attempts to be smooth work well, and it’s also fairly fun to watch Phoebe’s stabs at sabotage. Overall, the episode has some good moments, but too much of it flops for it to be a good one.

The One with All the Cheesecakes (23:33): “Phoebe’s old flame David (Hank Azaria) visits from Russia for an evening of romance. Rachel and Chandler swipe deliveries of a particularly tasty cheesecake from their neighbor’s doorstep.”

It’s one thing to see the increasingly competitive and edgy Monica, but it’s another to get a look at a vindictive Joey – and I like it. The extended dinner scene brings out some good moments and makes this show pretty solid. The cheesecake bits are decent but unspectacular, but the general tone provides a fun episode. Actually, it’s one of the most antagonistic on record, as each of the three stories features meanness between characters.

The One Where They’re Up All Night (22:55): “Rachel and Tag’s first night together is put on hold when they realize they forgot to overnight an important package. Ross and Joey are stuck on the roof and Phoebe can’t disable a relentlessly beeping smoke alarm.”

Hasn’t Rachel broken up with Tag yet? He’s such a dud and he really drags down the episodes in which he appears. In addition, four plots seems like a lot for this show to balance, which leaves all of them fairly thin. Phoebe’s battle with the smoke alarm probably works best, but this comes across as a mediocre episode overall.

Disc Three:

The One Where Rosita Dies (27:15): “Phoebe has a bizarre first day in her new job when she encounters a distraught office manager in a suicidal mood. Rachel and Chandler both believe they’ve broken Joey’s favorite chair.”

In contrast with the prior show, all the different threads of “Rosita” work well. Kudrow’s quirky line readings add some spark to the Phoebe plot, and Jason Alexander tosses in a good cameo. It’s a solid and funny show.

The One Where They All Turn Thirty (23:40): “Rachel’s agony over her 30th birthday starts everyone reminiscing about what they did upon reaching that milestone.”

Presented like a clip show, “Thirty” actually consists wholly of new material. If comes across as fairly disjointed but reasonably amusing. And at least it presents the end of the Tag story, which makes it a winner in my book.

The One with Joey’s New Brain (28:35): “Joey accidentally lets slip to a Days of Our Lives castmate (Susan Sarandon) that she is being written out of the script. Rachel and Phoebe try to sabotage each other’s changes to date a guy who left his cell phone at Central Perk.”

Friends guest stars tend to be hit or miss, and the bigger the celebrity, the iffier the cameo. Tom Selleck? Pretty good. Bruce Willis? Pretty terrible. But Sarandon overcomes those constraints and offers a fun turn as a serious soap opera diva. The other stories also fare well, but Sarandon makes this a particularly strong show.

The One with the Truth About London (29:59): “Monica and Chandler grudgingly agree to let Joey marry them – once he’s ‘ordained’ via the Internet. While babysitting, Rachel teaches Ben a few practical jokes.”

I still can’t stand the annoying Sprouse as Ben, but seeing Aniston’s discomfort when she babysits almost makes his presence tolerable. Actually, his naturally obnoxious presence works here, as the kid’s supposed to be jerky. However, I could live without the bit related to Joey conducting the wedding, as that seems like a dopey concept.

The One with the Cheap Wedding Dress (21:58): “Monica regrets telling a fellow bride-to-be about a cheaper bridal store when she has to fight her tooth and nail for a unique wedding dress – and later the right to hire Chandler’s favorite band for the event.”

There’s nothing crazier than a pack of brides to be, and “Dress” depicts that mania amusingly. It’s especially fun to watch Monica attack the crowds at the bargain store. It’s also a blast to watch Joey and Ross go up against each other.

Footage you didn’t see on TV alert: Joey actually uses some unusual-for-NBC profanity here when he says “does a bear s—t in the woods?”

The One with Joey’s Award (24:10): “Joey is overjoyed to be nominated for a ‘Soapie’. Monica gets wedding jitters.”

Didn’t they already do a plot like the one with Monica and Phoebe? Back then, Monica worried she and Chandler didn’t have enough heat anymore; this story seems awfully familiar. Still, the Joey bit was good, especially when he had to present an award after he lost in his own category.

Disc Four:

The One with Ross and Monica’s Cousin (22:10): “When Monica and Ross’s alluring cousin (Denise Richards) visits, her irresistible beauty causes serious distractions for all the men who meet her. Rachel and Phoebe try to rush their plans for Monica’s shower.”

That Denise Richards is a babe, and the reactions she inspires prove to be quite funny. The shots where she flings her hair and we hear Barry White are great, and they offer the show’s highlights. The Joey subplot – which his prosthetic foreskin – seem a little cutesy, but the shower provides some fun.

The One with Rachel’s Big Kiss (23:03): “Rachel bumps into her old sorority sister (Winona Ryder) and wonders whether she should confront her about a night in college where their friendship took a passionate turn.”

Is it really possible that the friends could know each other so long and only now have it come out that Rachel kissed a woman? That seems unlikely, especially given Joey’s constant pressure to see some girl-on-girl action. Ryder seems miscast as a shallow former sorority gal, but she pulls it off with a fun turn. The battle of the celebrity tuxes also provides some cool moments.

The One with the Vows (21:48): “Writing their wedding vows proves a daunting task for Monica and Chandler. Looking back over the pair’s relationship, the other friends worry about changes in store for all of them.”

Ugh – a clip show. Not good! Some new connecting material appears, but the vast majority of the program consists of old footage. It’s a weak episode and can be easily skipped; you won’t miss anything without it.

The One with Chandler’s Dad (23:52): “Monica arranges a meeting between Chandler and his estranged dad (Kathleen Turner) in hopes that they can reconcile before the ceremony. Rachel and a reluctant Ross borrow the keys to Monica’s Porsche.”

As I watched this show, I realized how much Friends toned down the soap opera elements as the years passed. These seemed much more dominant in the earlier years, whereas the later ones didn’t pour on as much schmaltz. I mentioned this because “Dad” demonstrates how much better the series handles potentially sentimental bits than in the past. The bits with Chandler’s pop teeter on the edge of sappiness but avoid them, and the show manages to work fairly well.

The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding (48:00): “Monica and Chandler gather their offbeat families on the eve of their wedding but there’s one problem: Chandler is missing. While Ross searches for him, Rachel and Phoebe desperately try to distract the unsuspecting bride. Someone is hiding a big secret.”

After all the build-up, wedding day finally arrives, and not a moment too soon! Actually, despite the fears I mentioned earlier, the wedding-related issues didn’t become too much of a problem during Season Seven. That thread played a smaller role than I anticipated and didn’t cause the show to sag like I worried.

Until now. No, “Wedding” didn’t suck, and it proceeded about as I expected. Nonetheless, it poured on a lot of melodrama and artificial tension, and the humorous bits felt somewhat forced. Granted, I don’t know if this kind of episode could ever avoid those traps, but “Wedding” remains a spotty show.

As for Season Seven as a whole, it worked pretty well. Except for the dreadful clip show, I can’t think of a single episode that was a genuine dud. The worst of programs still seemed pretty decent, and the best fared quite nicely. Chalk this up as another strong year of Friends.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus C-

Friends: The Complete Seventh Season appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Season Seven offered some flaws, but it marked an improvement over the prior six years.

As usual, sharpness seemed somewhat inconsistent. Most of the time I felt the shows came across as reasonably detailed and distinctive. Unfortunately, more than sporadic examples of softness occurred, and the shows looked somewhat ill defined at times. Occasional examples of jagged edges and moiré effects occurred, and I also noticed some edge enhancement. A few of the shows came across as somewhat grainy at times and a couple of specks popped up, but no other instances of source concerns appeared.

Whereas prior seasons displayed somewhat lackluster colors, Season Seven improved on those. Some muddiness occasionally occurred, but in general, the tones seemed nicely vivid and dynamic. Mostly tight and concise, they provided the biggest improvement on older sets. Blacks also seemed firmer and richer than in the past, though shadows remained somewhat inconsistent and occasionally looked a bit dense. Nonetheless, Season Seven presented the strongest visuals yet seen from Friends.

As usual, the remastered Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack of Friends presented a satisfactory but unexceptional affair. Given the talky nature of the series, though, this remained no surprise. Dialogue dominated the episodes and remained oriented toward the front center. As always, music presented solid stereo presence over the front speakers, and the surrounds echoed the tunes moderately.

Actually, rear speaker and effects usage improved slightly over prior sets. Prior releases tended toward monaural material for the most part, but this one added a better sense of breadth across the front. For example, the boat trips with Joey and Rachel presented nice sense of river splash, and the feeling of general ambience seemed more active as well. Some directional dialogue popped up and I also heard knocking and whatnot from the sides. The surrounds contributed more distinctive elements too, such as when thieves broke into Tag’s car; the track offered that audio from the rear right, which may be the first time I noticed actual split-surround material from Friends.

As usual, audio quality was fine but not spectacular. The lines seemed concise and fairly natural, and I noticed none of the light edginess that occasionally popped up in the past. Effects seemed acceptably accurate, but they never taxed the track at all. At least no problems occurred with those elements, and the music came across as pretty bright and bouncy. The rock-oriented score sounded clean and distinct, and bass response was tight and fairly rich. As with previous years, Season Seven sounded fine and slightly improved on prior years, but it remained fairly average.

Unsurprisingly, the supplements found on these DVDs seem similar to those on prior sets. Most show up on DVD Four, but we get a few bits on the others as well. As already noted, many of the episodes themselves include bonus footage. The amount of new material varies from show to show, and based on the running times, it appears that some of the shows include no extra footage. I don’t know Friends well enough to recognize most of the new shots, but I think it’s cool that we get the uncut programs.

Three audio commentaries appear. One appears on Disc Two via “The One with the Holiday Armadillo” and another is on Disc Three’s “The One with Joey’s New Brain”. The final commentary goes alongside DVD Four’s “The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding”. We hear from executive producers Kevin S. Bright, Marta Kauffman, and David Crane. In addition, costume designer Debra McGuire appears for “Armadillo”. All the participants were recorded separately for these tracks, and the results were edited together. Some of the remarks related directly to on-screen activities, but most dealt with general issues.

Folks who heard the prior commentaries will know what to expect here. The participants cover a mix of topics related to the series. We get some notes about the specific episodes themselves, and we also hear about general issues that deal with the show. “Armadillo” provides some nice notes about the episode’s inspiration from real-life, as we learn of the challenges Jewish parents have when it comes to dealing with Christmas and their kids. McGuire’s presence also adds good comments about the evolution of the characters’ wardrobes and the specific costumes for this episode. “Wedding”’s best moments delve into challenges of the scenario as well as other casting concepts for Chandler’s dad.

Otherwise, we get material that seems similar to prior tracks. The information occasionally seems useful and enlightening, but the participants go silent too often and don’t always offer interesting remarks. As in the past, the comments seem sporadically compelling but not consistently. Still, they include enough to merit a screening.

In addition, all four DVDs include Cast and Crew listings for the six main actors plus the three executive producers. These entries include no information about the folks; they simply list the names.

Moving to DVD Four, Friends of Friends Part II provides some information from a few guest actors. The 19-minute and 45-second featurette intersperses show clips and interviews with Morgan Fairchild, Alexandra Holden, Eddie Cahill, Cole Sprouse and Paget Brewster. They discuss their roles, working on the series, and attributes of the main cast. Much of this seems fairly bland and generic, and this becomes a pretty lackluster program.

Expect the usual material from the Gag Reel. This nine-minute and 22-second compilation shows the standard goofs and giggles shot during Season Seven. It becomes pretty tedious and doesn’t offer much of interest.

Hosted by actor James Michael Tyler, Gunther Spills the Beans offers a preview of Season Eight. This 130-second clip is literally just a teaser for the next DVD set. It provides nothing more than an ad.

Next up is a quiz. Monica’s Wedding Book Challenge gives us multiple-choice questions about the steps to the big day. After you choose, you see the corresponding clip and learn if you selected correctly. The questions are pretty easy if you’ve watched the shows. At the end, you get a ranking based on how well you did. It’s a little fun but not one of the better Friends games, especially since it doesn’t come with a real reward.

If Friends had started to slow down, it didn’t show in Season Seven. The year maintained the same high standards seen in the last few years and presented a lot of entertainment. The DVD set offers picture and sound that seem somewhat stronger than usual, and it comes with a roster of extras similar to those found in prior packages. It’s another fine set that gets my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8571 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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