Reviewed by Colin Jacobson


Warner, pan&scan, languages: English Dolby Surround [CC], subtitles: none, single side-single layer, 26 chapters, rated PG, 95 min., $14.98, street date 10/13/98.

Studio Line

Directed by Herbert Ross. Starring Goldie Hawn, Chris Sarandon, Richard Romanus, Andre Gregory, Gail Strickland, Cliff De Young.

Will the corridors of power in our nation's capital ever be the same! Not after Sunny Davis (Golden Hawn) arrives. The ditzy D.C. cocktail waitress goes from serving drinks to serving her country after saving an Arabian dignity from an assassination attempt. What Sunny thinks, she says. And what she says and does is hugely funny, thanks to work by writer Buck Henry (The Graduate), director Herbert Ross (The Goodbye Girl) and Academy Award winner Hawn, charmingly back in her country's service after cheery stints in Private Benjamin and Swing Shift and putting her politics where her heart is -- as well as her Protocol.

Picture/Sound/Extras (D/C/F)

As hard as it is for actors to make the jump from TV to movies, there's one leap that's even more difficult: doing so well in film that most people pretty much forget your original success on the small screen and you are exclusively thought of as a movie star. Robin Williams and John Travolta did it; Don Johnson and David Caruso didn't.

Another actor who made an extremely successful transition to film was Goldie Hawn. In a way, she had both an easier and a more difficult time moving on than did many others. Easier because she had no strong character identification from her work on Laugh-In; she was just the ditzy blonde chick, not Mork or Barbarino. At the same time, this affiliation may have made it harder for her to expand into film because audiences largely didn't take her seriously; again, Hawn seemed to be just a cute face and nothing else.

Well, since she's still starring in films 30 years after Laugh-In, obviously she did SOMETHING right and whatever baggage she carried from that experience didn't seem to weigh her down too heavily. Of course, she never really escaped that flaky babe image, though. Whereas Travolta and Williams have portrayed a wide variety of different kinds of characters, Hawn still seems to be stuck within that same "dumb blonde" stereotype.

1984's Protocol is a perfect example of a stereotypical Goldie Hawn movie. She plays Sunny Davis, an aging cocktail waitress who receives sudden attention after thwarting an assassination attempt on a mideastern emir. Like lots of other Hawn characters, she's cute, bubbly, naive and apparently not too bright, but of course she packs lots of common sense, as we eventually will discover.

Much of the film proceeds amiably enough as it depicts Hawn as an amusing "fish out of water"; for instance, she shows up to a luncheon party in tank top and shorts because she was told it was a barbecue. During the latter part of the movie, it heads more into Mr. Smith Goes to Washington territory as Hawn learns how the D.C. muckity-mucks have used her for their own ends. It's all passably entertaining and watchable though tremendously predictable and fairly hackneyed.

Hawn does a decent job, which should be expected considering how many times she's played virtually the same character. The rest of the cast contains some decent actors, but they're all completely unmemorable here. Chris Sarandon did some nice work in Fright Night, but as Hawn's bureaucrat love interest, he's an absolute dud; I suppose he COULD leave less of an impression, but it's hard to imagine.

Actually, the only memorable bit of acting in the entire film comes in the form of a tiny bit from John Ratzenberger as a security guard who was a witness to Hawn's heroics. His character isn't much of a departure from his signature role as blow-hard Cliff Clavin, but it's fairly understated and easily the funniest thing in the film. I kept hoping his character might pop up again, but no such luck.

Don't get me wrong: I thought Protocol was generally an entertaining affair. It loses a lot of steam during its second half, but it provides an amusing diversion.

Warner Bros. DVD release of Protocol came as one of their initial forays into the realm of ultra-bargain DVDs; it's one of their "no-frills" line that feature an MSRP of only $15. Most of the titles in this line feature no supplemental materials and are not presented in their original aspect ratios.

For a movie like Protocol, the loss of letterboxing doesn't exactly cause a calamity. It may lack a sliver of picture information on the sides, but if so, any losses are negligible. While I have no real problem with the full- screen presentation, I have significant issues with the generally terrible transfer given to the film. Every once in a while, a scene pops up that looks pretty good; a crisp image here, a vibrant color there. These instances are very few and far between. For roughly 95% of the film, it offers a drab, fuzzy, soft, and lifeless image. Is it a step up from VHS? Maybe, though I've certainly seen tapes that look better than this mess.

The Dolby Pro Logic sound for Protocol fares a bit better. Rear channels are used almost entirely for music, but the various musical selections sound surprisingly good; many scenes feature then-contemporary recordings, and they're fairly clean and occasionally pack a nice wallop of bass. Unfortunately, dialog doesn't fare as well. While it's always intelligible, speech often sounds flat and canned. This doesn't really detract from the film, but it certainly doesn't help either.

As mentioned earlier, the bargain line of DVDs from whence Protocol comes offers absolutely no bonus materials. When I say none, I mean NONE! They didn't even bother to put a still photo from the film on the DVD's menu screen! Menu options presented: chapter search and "play movie" - no subtitle or foreign language options. Unlike virtually every other DVD I've seen, the chapter search section doesn't even offer any still photos from the represented scenes; it's all text! Okay, I know that Warner Bros. intended to provide no extras with this release, but this is ridiculous. As far as supplements go, it doesn't - and I think it CAN'T - get any worse than this.

As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. In the case of Protocol, for your $15 or so you get a mildly entertaining film that's presented with a roughly VHS presentation. Of course, you're pretty much paying VHS prices; a quick trip to indicated that they want $10.49 for the DVD but they ask $12.99 for the videotape! If you're set on owning the movie, obviously it makes sense to get the DVD. Don't expect much from it, though; it's one of the worst DVDs I've yet seen...

Related Sites

Current as of 2/24/99

  • The Goldie Hawn Page--A nice site with biography, images and links.
  • to purchase is the DVD at 30% off.

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