MOVIE: ****1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Universal’s 100th anniversary as a studio has brought out some classic re-releases, like “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Sullivan’s Travels.” There have even been some films I remember from playing in theaters when I was a child, like “The Deer Hunter” and “Smokey and the Bandit.” However, it’ll always be hard for me to think of a film only a dozen years old as a landmark in the studio’s history.
However, this doesn’t stop “Erin Brockovich” from being a significant film to include in the Universal 100th Anniversary collection. It’s interesting to note that “Erin Brockovich” came out at a time when Universal was having a great year, feasting on the profits from “Meet the Parents,” “Bring It On” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” That was a different time from now when the studio has struggled with some expensive flops.
All of this is moot when you watch “Erin Brockovich” because the film is good enough to forget that it was only in theaters about a decade ago. Coming out the same year as director Steven Soderbergh’s award-winning “Traffic,” “Erin Brockovich” featured his docudrama style though it was toned down from “Traffic.” The story is a true one, about a down-and-out woman working in a legal office who uncovers cause for a massive suit against a major corporation for poisoning the citizens near one of its factories. Determined and convicted, Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) gains the trust of the people to mount legal action.
Roberts won an Oscar for the role, and it was deserved, much more than her first nomination for “Pretty Woman.” While the characters of these two films were quite similar, fitting well into Roberts’ stock performance, this one had an extra dose of realism.
“Erin Brockovich” is smartly directed, with Soderbergh perfecting his style but not overdoing it. The muted tones and digital cinematography gave it a serious look that made it slightly retro but still looking timeless. It’s an engaging drama that is both terrifying and uplifting. I’m not sure how much of a whitewash was done on the Brockovich character, but the script manages to not make her look like a saint while also not making her a slave to her flaws.
It’s been about a decade since I’d seen “Erin Brockovich,” and it was a great opportunity to see it again.
The 100 Years of Universal “Erin Brockovich” Blu-ray also includes a DVD of the film and a Digital Copy disc. The bonus material includes the theatrical trailer and deleted scenes with commentary by Steven Soderbergh, plus the featurettes “Spotlight on Location: The Making of Erin Brockovich” and “Erin Brockovich: A Look at a Real-Life Experience.
Additional bonus material includes the 100 Years of Universal featurettes “Academy Award Winners” and “The Lot.”