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Notting Hill: Ultimate Edition

When Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm wrote this kind of story, the male lead was usually a handsome prince looking for a wife, and the girl was generally a poor-but-beautiful commoner (a goose girl or a miller's daughter) he spotted and fell in love with while riding through the countryside. In screenwriter Richard Curtis' hands, the fairy tale gets a twist: The handsome prince becomes goddess-like movie star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts), and the goose girl morphs into charmingly floppy, marginally successful book shop owner William Thacker (Hugh Grant). But make no mistake about it — these two are both royalty, at least in the world of romantic comedy. And that's why Notting Hill is ultimately a fun, fluffy escape. Watching America's favorite pretty woman and England's unassuming prodigal son connect onscreen is the kind of thing that light romantic comedies are for. When the awesome Anna wanders into William's travel bookstore in London's trendy Notting Hill neighborhood one day and he winds up spilling orange juice all over her, his fate is sealed. It's not long before he falls head over heels for her, and she for him, but since this is a two-hour movie, a few obstacles are bound to get in the way. And they do, from William's disgustingly grubby, chronically spacey flatmate, Spike (Rhys Ifans), to Anna's fear of showing up in the tabloids. But with a dash of Hollywood "happily ever after" and the help of a gaggle of friends who all seem a little too much like the supporting cast in Curtis' Four Weddings and a Funeral, William and Anna wind up in each other's arms. Which is as it should be — if you want real life, go watch the news. That said, Notting Hill is saved from terminal cheesiness thanks to its strong comic bits, from William's misadventures as a fake magazine reporter to Alec Baldwin's self-mocking cameo as Anna's movie star boyfriend. Fans of the movie will get a kick out of all the extras Universal stuffed into the two-disc "Ultimate Edition." Many of the features (the director/writer/producer commentary track, deleted scenes, music highlights, interactive travel book, and a funny video bit called "Hugh Grant's Movie Tips") had a previous life in the one-disc "Collector's Edition," but there's plenty of new stuff, too. The list includes a 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a separate featurette on making the "Seasonal Walk on Portobello Road" scene, music videos for Elvis Costello's "She" and Shania Twain's "You've Got a Way," and a montage of still photographs, plus production notes, cast and filmmaker bios, and recommendations for other Universal DVDs. There's also a link to DVD-ROM goodies, if your computer is so equipped. Each disc offers a different version of the film: Disc One showcases a beautiful 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer, while Disc Two features a 1.33:1 full-screen version. Audio options — Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, French Dolby Surround, and English and Spanish subtitles — are the same for both. Dual DVD digipak with semi-transparent folding cover.
—Betsy Bozdech

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