The Sure Thing appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided DVD-14; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Though easily recognizable as a product of the Eighties, the transfer of The Sure Thing presented a stronger than expected image.
Sharpness mostly looked positive. Wide shots appeared slightly soft throughout the movie, and other parts of the film also occasionally came across as somewhat ill defined, largely due to bouts of edge enhancement. Still, most of the movie appeared appropriately accurate and distinct. I noticed no issues connected to jagged edges or moiré effects, and the movie seemed surprisingly free from defects. Virtually no examples of speckles, grit, or other flaws popped up during the flick.
Many Eighties movies display iffy colors, and Thing demonstrated some of the usual moderate muddiness I associate with the era. However, the hues mostly came across as acceptably dynamic and tight; they could look a bit drab, but they usually were fine. Black levels also seemed slightly tame but they mostly looked dense and solid, while low-light situations demonstrated very good definition and detail. The Sure Thing was a little too loose and occasionally murky to merit a grade above a “B”, but it still seemed better than I expected.
Adapted from the movie’s original monaural soundtrack – which also appears on the DVD – the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of The Sure Thing opened up the audio slightly. However, the soundfield remained essentially monaural much of the time. Some music spread decently to the sides, and occasional examples of effects also popped up in those speakers. At times, vehicles moved from side to side, and a few other sequences like a rainstorm made acceptable use of the soundfield. Nonetheless, the elements stayed close to the center the vast majority of the time, and surround usage appeared inconsequential most of the time. A few shots used the rear speakers to fair effect, but they popped up infrequently.
Audio quality was generally fine, though the elements showed their age. Speech could be a little dull, and the lines also exhibited some edginess at times. They always remained intelligible and reasonably natural, though. Music lacked great range but was reasonably clear and distinctive. Effects seemed accurate and clean, though they didn’t display a lot of dimensionality. Overall, the soundtrack of The Sure Thing was perfectly solid for this sort of film, but it never became anything more than that.
For their special edition release of The Sure Thing, MGM added a mix of supplements across two sides of this DVD. We open with an audio commentary from director Rob Reiner, who gives us a running, screen-specific piece. The veteran of many tracks, Reiner usually doesn’t do well with the format. Though better than the average Reiner commentary, his discussion of The Sure Thing remains very flawed. Actually, the chat starts well, as Reiner tells us of his discomfort during the casting of “the sure thing” herself, and Reiner later occasionally gives us good notes about the way the actors worked, with a particular emphasis on Cusack’s improvisational style. He also relates thematic connections among many of his movies.
Unfortunately, these highlights appear infrequently. Much of the movie passes without any information from the director, and when he does speak, he often just tells us the names of actors, praises people and film elements, or relates the on-screen action. To be sure, this commentary seems much better than some of Reiner’s worst offenses, but he still comes across as a generally dull and uninformative commentary participant.
Also on Side One, we find a trivia track. This uses the standard “pop-up video” style format and offers information about a wide variety of subjects. Most of the deal with tidbits about the actors and the locations, and we also get details about all of the pop tunes on the soundtrack and their performers. A few other minor notes appear as well, but those subjects dominate the track. That may make it sound somewhat dry, but it actually works nicely. It provides a consistent level of information and rarely slows as it covers the different issues. Text commentaries tend to be hit or miss, but this is a good one.
When we go to Side Two, we get a “retrospective featurette” called The Road to The Sure Thing. The 26-minute and 14-second program provides a combination of movie snippets, archival materials, and new interviews. We hear from Reiner, actors John Cusack, Daphne Zuniga, and Nicollette Sheridan, writers Steven L. Bloom and Jonathan Roberts, producer Roger Birnbaum, former Embassy Pictures executive Lindsay Doran, casting director Jane Jenkins, production designer Lilly Kilvert and casting director Janet Hishenson.
As with Reiner’s commentary, “Road” starts strong but peters out quickly. At the beginning, we learn of the script’s genesis and difficult path to the screen. Once the project gets the green light, however, the featurette becomes less interesting. The remainder covers how Reiner and the main actors joined the project, and we also get some notes about the flick’s legacy. Many of the notes about Reiner and the director already appear in his commentary, and much of the rest consists of little more than praise for Reiner. We find a lot of remarks about his talent and special qualities. Good for him, but this makes “Road” only moderately and sporadically useful.
Next we get another featurette entitled Dressing The Sure Thing. It runs eight minutes, 47 seconds and concentrates on costume designer Durinda Wood and her work. We see short clips from the movie and get notes on what she wanted to do with the characters’ clothes. Since Thing took place in a contemporary setting, one might not think it required a lot of effort to dress people, so it seems fascinating to hear the specifics of her attempts. “Dressing” provides a tight and informative program.
Casting The Sure Thing takes seven minutes, 17 seconds to examine the obvious topic. We hear from casting directors Jenkins and Hishenson as they discuss how they do their job in a general way and go into more specifics about Thing. They mostly skip the obvious notes about the leads, which is good since we’ve already heard those remarks elsewhere. “Casting” covers its subject in an efficient manner and gives us some interesting information.
For the final featurette, Reading The Sure Thing runs five minutes as writer Bloom reads his original story treatment. We see movie segments that generally correspond to Bloom’s writing. This presentation seems a little odd, as I’m not sure why we didn’t get the material in stillframe form, but it’s still cool to hear the tale in its earliest version, especially since it has only a smidgen in common with the final product.
The disc includes a mix of trailers. In addition to the original clip for The Sure Thing itself, we get “Other Great MGM Releases”, which includes ads for The Princess Bride, This Is Spinal Tap, “MGM Means Great Movies”, and “Best of the 1980s”.
Lastly, some hidden menu features show up on side two. You can find these easily; click “up” from the “featurettes” option on the main menu and you’ll highlight a pushpin. You can access a clip there and also move to the right, where you can get into material attached to the three additional pushpins. All four pieces relate to Nicollette Sheridan. She chats about her sarong (26 seconds), the bikini scenes (127 seconds), and a character’s remark about her breast size (17 seconds). We also find a 32-second silent snippet from her audition tape. None of these Easter eggs seems scintillating, but they’re worth a look.
In an age filled with cheap and crude sex comedies, The Sure Thing offered a teen flick that dared to treat matters with a little class and maturity. That’s probably why so many folks still view it fondly 18 years after the fact and also why it remains amusing and likable despite a wide selection of dated fashions and songs. The DVD looks fairly good, and the remixed 5.1 audio seems decent. Despite the presence of yet another generally dull audio commentary from Rob Reiner, the extras mostly explore the film well and offer a reasonable amount of useful information. Sweet and charming, The Sure Thing earns my recommendation via this positive DVD release.