Madonna’s Romcom

Madonna (A League of Their Own) stars in the bubbly, frenetic Who’s That Girl? from director James Foley. Already a massive international music star by this time with megahits “Like A Virgin” and many others, the 1980’s screwball comedy is a formulaic but ultimately fun romcom vehicle designed for Madonna. The movie is a solid studio product of its era featuring a pop star trying to break into Hollywood. Madonna recorded four new tunes for the soundtrack, which led to a hugely successful Who’s That Girl world tour.

Thick in her marriage to Sean Penn during this period of her career, Madonna had already been featured in flicks like Desperately Seeking Susan before Who’s That Girl. Matched up with co-star Griffin Dunne, Madonna copies Marilyn Monroe as free spirit Nikki Finn. Loudon Trott (Dunne) is a straight-laced tax attorney who falls for the bad girl’s charms in a madcap comedic adventure.

Madonna had already been featured in flicks like Desperately Seeking Susan before Who’s That Girl

Fresh out of prison, Nikki is a street-wise gal with a heart of gold. Loudon Trott has been directed by his boss, and future father-in-law, to pick Nikki up and put her on a bus out of New York City back to Philadelphia. Loudon is in a rush since his wedding is the next day and a client has requested he pick up an exotic panther for delivery. Loudon bites off more than he can chew when Nikki’s antics unleash a sprawling adventure for the pair with a big cat nicknamed Murray along for the ride.

Who’s That Girl? unfortunately landed with a dud at the box office, widely panned by serious critics who didn’t seem happy with Madonna’s attempted transition from music into acting. She’s not bad in the role and bounces off Griffin Dunne with enthusiasm. Playing a sexy, funny lead while often channeling Marilyn Monroe at times, it’s disposable filmmaking made as a lite crowd-pleaser for her fans and casual audiences. Character actor Griffin Dunne is underrated here as Madonna’s partner-in-crime, perfect as the straight man thrown up against her energetic personality.

The narrative unfolds quickly as Foley maintains snappy pacing and lively banter throughout the first two acts. There’s hardly a moment to breathe before we’re well into the uproarious comedy’s final act. The screenplay leans a little too heavily on a panther roaming free in New York City under Nikki’s command, but the gag keeps delivering until the end. Madonna’s playful, cheeky performance as a bad girl isn’t the stuff of Oscars but certainly brings a fun-loving spirit to the screen in plucky abandon.

There are small touches that help elevate Who’s That Girl? beyond studio hackery. A cute animated opening credits scene details Nikki’s run-in with the law and how she landed in prison. Murray the panther is practically the film’s third lead. His animal handlers should be given massive credit for Murray’s endearing role in the plot.

Madonna recorded four new songs for Who’s That Girl? but her character isn’t a musician in the film. They pop up as backing music for a couple notable scenes. This is not a musical and from what I understand her fans consider these tunes some of their favorites from this era in her career.

I’d ignore its multiple Razzie nominations and the more negative reviews as long as your expectations don’t go overboard. This is a pleasant, formulaic romantic comedy from the ‘80s with corny characters. It’s easily digestible PG fluff from the era when Madonna was a global music icon, trying to break into Hollywood as a legitimate movie star. Take that for what it’s worth.

Video

Shout Studios issues Who’s That Girl? on Blu-ray, making its debut on the format. They’ve licensed the 1987 movie from Warner Bros, giving us what they claim is a 2K scan of the 35mm Interpositive. The good news is the movie looks great in 1080p video, shot by famed Dutch cinematographer and director Jan de Bont (Speed). Doubt a movie of this little regard ever receives a 4K UHD but I have to believe the negative would look great at that resolution.

I’m actually surprised Shout claims this positively-glowing film transfer isn’t from the negative – definition and color rendition are quite striking. The elements are in beautiful condition with just a tick of minor wobble evident. There’s a steady, warm contrast backed by strong black levels. Flesh-tones are inviting and its color palette blooms nicely without looking oversaturated.

The main feature runs its full 93 minutes on a BD-50 in a generous and transparent AVC encode. Unfiltered, the film scan reflects the movie’s cinematography faithfully in a better-than-expected 1.85:1 presentation. Close-ups of Madonna are on the soft side, they clearly went for an old Hollywood ethos with the leading lady lit up while the rest of the cast doesn’t receive the same glow. There’s ample depth and projection with appreciable cinematic texture.

Audio

Presumably retaining the same surround mix found on Warner’s original DVD, this BD offers smooth 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio. Dialogue is well-behaved and nestles in nicely with the occasional sound effects. The sound design isn’t particularly exciting but there’s enough going on to keep listeners engaged while primarily coming from the front channels.

There isn’t much to the surround presentation beyond a few small directional pans, providing slightly more atmosphere. Madonna contributes four songs for the soundtrack – “Causing A Commotion,” “The Look Of Love,” “Can’t Stop,” and the title song. They are heard in crystal-clear recording quality, a distinct stereo image with pinpoint vocals and generous bottom.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font. The original stereo soundtrack is offered in 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio.

Extras

Who’s That Girl? is #160 in Shout Studios’ Select line-up. The disc is coded for Region A. Making its Blu-ray debut after all this time, the only significant bonus feature is a new audio commentary. That’s better than the practically bare-bones DVD we’ve had all these years from WB but fans will wish Shout had gone the extra mile scrounging up a few interviews with the cast and crew. Madonna’s fans would have enjoyed the music videos made for her songs from the movie, which apparently can be found on her recent music video release.

Audio Commentary by film historian Russell Dyball – A somewhat dry but helpfully informative solo discussion of the movie. The thematic analysis gets a little wonky for what is a formulaic studio comedy from the ‘80s but Dyball’s heart is in the right place. There’s nothing particularly essential hearing this commentary but it’s a little treat for starving Madonna fans.

Image Gallery (07:54 in HD) – A series of still images and photos from the production play automatically, including what appears to be a complete set of lobby cards made for the film.

Theatrical Trailer (01:08 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Who's That Girl
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Madonna has a blast making this uproarious romcom doing her very best imitating Marilyn Monroe’s antics

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 46 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray:


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