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Wayne Wang
Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Giancarlo Esposito, Alicia Witt, Gérard Depardieu, Jane Adams, Michael Estime, Susan Kellerman
Writing Credits:
Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman, J.B. Priestley (1950 screenplay)

She Always Thought She Was Somebody ... And She Was.

Wayne Wang's remake of the Alec Guinness classic Last Holiday stars an ebullient Queen Latifah as Georgia Bird. Told she only has a few months to live, Bird, an introverted young woman from New Orleans, decides to tour Europe. There, she begins to blossom into the woman she always wanted to be, charming (and inadvertently threatening) her fellow travelers.

Box Office:
$45 million.
Opening Weekend
$15.508 million on 2514 screens.
Domestic Gross
$38.360 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2,0
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 111 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 5/2/2006

• Two Deleted Scenes
• “Last Holiday: Packing Light” Featurette
• “Last Holiday: Last Look” Featurette
• “Last Holiday: 23 Years in the Making” Featurette
• Two Recipes
• Trailers


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.


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Last Holiday (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 19, 2006)

When I saw the trailer for 2006’s Last Holiday, I groaned. I thought the flick looked absolutely atrocious and couldn’t imagine why I’d ever bother to watch it. However, the movie earned surprisingly decent reviews, so when this DVD ended up on my door, I figured I’d give it a look.

A remake of a 1950 Alec Guinness vehicle, Holiday stars Queen Latifah as Georgia Byrd. The shy, mousy Georgia works as a salesclerk at a retail store and leads a low-key life. All this changes when she gets a medical diagnosis that indicates she has only a month to live.

This immediately leads to a lot of questions and self-pity. Eventually Georgia changes her outlook and becomes more aggressive. Determined to enjoy her remaining time, Georgia quits her job, takes all her savings, and heads to a resort in Prague. The movie follows her adventures there as she learns to loosen up and enjoy herself.

If nothing else, Holiday deserves mention for its casting. In addition to Latifah, LL Cool J plays her love interest. We’ve seen lots of rappers turn into actors over the years, and many of them have worked together. However, I can’t think of an instance in which two rappers played the leads in a movie of this sort. Two rappers starring in a romantic comedy? That’s an interesting twist.

Beyond that unusual casting circumstance, there isn’t much about Holiday to intrigue the viewer. Not that I really think of it as a bad movie. Instead, it simply has a terminal case of the blahs.

And it’s about as predictable as a film can be. From minute one, there’s not a single question about where the story will go. None of its attempted twists and turns comes as even a faint surprise. The tale follows an easily anticipated course and never deviates from that path.

Actually, while that’s true of the plot and character development, I will admit that one aspect of Holiday took me by surprise: its racial concentration, or lack thereof. Make no mistake: it paints Georgia as an African-American woman in the south, and it doesn’t intend to “whitewash” her. However, Holiday comes blissfully free of racially oriented humor. It lacks the tiresome stereotypical “ghetto” flavor that mars many movies with black leads, including Latifah’s dreadful Bringing Down the House. Holiday takes a nicely colorblind eye toward its leads but it doesn’t strip them of their ethnicity. I find that to be a worthwhile concept.

I really like that Georgia’s size never plays into things. We can see that she’s conscious of her weight. Early in the film, we learn that she’s a great chef but doesn’t eat her dishes since she sticks with Lean Cuisine. However, the flick doesn’t hammer us with these concepts. The allusions to her diet are pretty much the only indications of her size. Latifah’s a fairly large woman, but the movie doesn’t make her suffer for that fact. It never brings this up as an issue.

Interestingly, it actually downplays Cool J’s physical attributes. That’s a smart move, for it makes his character’s romance with Georgia more believable. When Taxi paired Latifah with the studly Henry Simmons, this stretched past the realm of believability. The film played up his buff qualities and it became almost impossible to believe he’d be so passionate about someone who looks like Latifah.

Cool J has a very muscular body as well, but Holiday doesn’t reveal that. I think this makes sense since it lets us better accept him as a romantic match for Latifah. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that good-looking guys wouldn’t go for someone with Latifah’s dimensions. However, it seems like a stretch and can become a distraction. Holiday handles the issue well since we don’t see Cool J as all that hot.

I also applaud the general gentleness of the film. Too many modern comedies feel they need to shove their humor down our throats and assault us with gags. That doesn’t happen with the genial and low-key Holiday. It includes a few mildly outrageous scenes, but it presents them in an almost apologetic way. It likes to stay quiet and subdued, factors that make it unusual in today’s rowdy marketplace.

Because of those positives, I regret to note that Holiday leaves me bored. This doesn’t occur because I prefer and crave “in your face” effort. No, the problem is that the movie never overcomes its predictable elements to turn into anything out of the ordinary.

This hearkens back to the predictability of the story. Since we can see every angle before it appears, only the quality of the characters and the comedy will maintain our attention. Unfortunately, all those gags follow lines that one can also easily anticipate. I can’t think of a single moment that appears clever or original. The charm of the actors helps muster a few minor laughs such as during the otherwise imbecilic snowboard sequence, but these aren’t enough to sustain our interest.

The film’s length also becomes a problem. I’d prefer a romantic comedy like this to clock in around 100 minutes. 111 minutes may not seem like much more, but in this case, it causes the movie to drag. This seems especially problematic in the interminable first act. The flick wastes too much time on redundant character exposition when we really just want it to take us to Prague.

With its gentle tone and lack of ethnic stereotyping, I applaud Last Holiday as something different. Unfortunately, it uses too many tired story elements and gags to make it entertaining. This is an overly long and overly dull film.

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

Last Holiday appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though not grossly problematic, the transfer seemed lackluster for a brand-new movie.

Some of the problems related to sharpness. Moderate edge enhancement appeared, and that occasionally left the image without great definition. Much of the movie was fine, and the quality improved as it progressed. Nonetheless, I thought it sometimes looked a little too mushy. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and print flaws seemed absent. The movie seemed a bit grainy at times, though.

Contrast seemed a bit off, as much of the movie looked overly bright. This complimented the dark-skinned actors but left everyone else pale and pasty. I suppose that acted as some form of justice given all the films that went in the other direction; too man flicks such as Event Horizon tend to lose the black performers in the shadows. Still, I thought the brightness made the movie appear odd at times.

The film’s palette reflected the same issues. The colors seemed coordinated to reflect Queen Latifah’s skin tones, and that left the entire movie with an amber tint. Some brighter colors popped up in exterior shots, and the hues were fine within the schemes used. Overall, the transfer was muddier and less concise than I’d like.

Given the romantic comedy roots of Last Holiday, I expected little from its soundfield. Indeed, this was a fairly restricted soundfield that fell in line with films of this genre. The audio stayed largely focused on the front channels. A few elements like helicopters and snowboards opened up the surrounds a bit, but there wasn’t a lot of information on display. Music showed good stereo imaging, at least, and the general ambience was fine.

Audio quality was acceptable if less than impressive. Music showed lackluster bass response and could have offered more satisfying depth. Nonetheless, the track was usually reasonably solid. Speech sounded crisp and distinctive, and effects were clean and clear. Music seemed peppy despite the absence of great low-end. This was an unexceptional mix that earned a “B-“.

A small mix of extras fills out the DVD. Most of these come from the package’s three featurettes. Last Holiday: Packing Light runs 15 minutes, 25 seconds and offers movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from producers Jack Rapke and Laurence Mark, director Wayne Wang, and actors Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, and Alicia Witt.

They trace the film’s development, the choice of Wang as director, casting and performances, shooting in the Austrian Alps, and general thoughts about the story. Don’t expect much real detail or insight, though. The actors offer surprisingly good notes about their characters, but otherwise this turns into a bland overview of different matters. The two sides balance out to make “Light” an average program.

In the seven-minute and 47-second Last Holiday: Last Look, we discover remarks from Wang, production designer William Arnold, costume designer Daniel Orlandi, and director of photography Geoffrey Simpson. “Look” covers photographic choices, sets and locations, clothes, colors and various visual concerns. Despite its brevity, the piece digs into the topics with reasonable depth and gives us a nice take.

For the final featurette, we find the seven-minute and 13-second Last Holiday: 23 Years in the Making. It features Mark, Rapke, and screenwriters Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman. As implied by the title, this piece looks at the immense amount of time required to get the project brought to the screen. We learn about the adaptation of the original film, the development of the script, and various attempts to make the thing over the years. I like the discussion of the near misses over the years, especially since we hear about some folks almost attached to the project. We also find nice notes about the changes that came through the decades. This is a generally useful little show.

Two Deleted Scenes fill a total of two minutes, 22 seconds. (Lotsa twos in that last sentence!) These include “Kick the Car” (1:35) and “Where To, Cowboy?” (0:47). The first shows Georgia’s departure from New Orleans, while the second gives us a look at Sean when he arrives in Prague. Neither is special, but both are decent and would have been acceptable in the film.

Two Recipes appear next. These teach us how to make “Poulet Tchoupitoulas” and “Bananas Foster”. I don’t plan to attempt them, but if they interest you, note that they’re here.

Along with a trailer for Holiday, the DVD includes some ads. We get clips for Neil Young: Heart of Gold, Failure to Launch, All You’ve Got, The Oprah Winfrey Show: 20th Anniversary Collection, and Elizabethtown. These appear in the disc’s Previews area and also start the DVD.

A genial but not terribly engaging comedy, I like Last Holiday more for its social gestures than the material on the screen. It takes a nicely respectful look at its characters; too bad it sticks them in such a dull and predictable piece of work. The DVD offers lackluster picture and audio with a minor set of extras. This is an average release for a bland film.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 10
2 3:
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