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Tootsie

Voted as the second funniest American movie of all time by the American Film Institute, Sydney Pollack's 1982 "man in a dress" farce comes about as close to delivering pure joy as any film can. In his single greatest performance, Dustin Hoffman stars as Michael Dorsey, a fiercely committed New York actor whose ill-tempered perfectionism has alienated all potential employers. Desperate for work, Michael engages the classic comic device of cross-dressing and seeks work under a new persona: Dorothy Michaels. Exactly because of her (his) stubborn ways, Dorothy quickly lands a role as a female hospital administrator on a popular soap opera, becomes a national sensation, and, naturally, many hilarious complications ensue. To summarize Tootsie cannot do it justice. This is no Mrs. Doubtfire, but rather a transcendent comedy that behind its big, generous, and always motivated laughs, is tremendously emotionally rewarding. Written by Larry Gelbart, Murray Schisgal, and Don McGuire, Tootsie's dialog crackles with unmatched — and unforced — wit. The exchanges between Hoffman and director Sydney Pollack, who appears as Michael's bewildered agent, are priceless examples of perfect comic argument, where setup and punchline erupt effortlessly from the heat of discussion. Bill Murray delivers some of his funniest moments as Michael's playwright roommate, and ubiquitous '80s comic actors Dabney Coleman, Teri Garr, Charles Durning, and George Gaynes are also rewarded with roles worthy of their often underused talents. What makes Tootsie special, however, is Hoffman's honesty and commitment to role a lesser actor would have played like a cheap gag. In his interview for the AFI television special honoring Tootsie as near the pinnacle of American comedies, Hoffman broke into tears describing how important the character of Dorothy Michaels was to him. This emotional commitment is ever-present in his performance. Michael Dorsey is "proud to be a woman" despite the farcical nature of his charade, and when, after the film's unforgettably hilarious climax, he confronts, for the first time as man, the woman he loves (Jessica Lange), he tells her, "I was a better man with you as woman than I ever was with a woman as a man, you know what I mean?" — it's one of the most poignant comic moments ever. Columbia TriStar, who've put out some great special-edition DVDs in the past, such as Ghostbusters and Bridge Over the River Kwai, and even managed to muster up some extras for titles like Cliffhanger and The Craft, decided in their wisdom to let this classic stand on its own, with only a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1 – full-screen version on the flip-side to satisfy the cretins), and a pretty good new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Trailers, keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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