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The War of the Roses: Special Edition

As a sophomore feature director, Danny DeVito followed up his excellent 1987 black comedy Throw Momma From the Train with an even darker dive into domestic hostility, this time sidestepping matricide for the decidedly messier business of divorce. The War of the Roses is part satire and part cautionary tale, filled with sharp humor and a climactic battle the equal of any scene in Gladiator. Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner star as Oliver and Barbara Rose, from whose spontaneous, passionate Nantucket tryst springs a marriage, two children, a big-ass house, and years of suppressed loathing and resentment. Oliver is a bit of a workaholic and an extra bit stupid, and Barbara, well, she's got enough issues to open her own periodicals museum. Although many of the marital conflicts that rear their heads are typical divorce movie chow, DeVito, working from the novel by Warren Adler, has the guts to see this couple's grim story out to its natural end. The only real fault to this terrifically paced, acutely timed, and consistently witty comedy is that in necessarily deriving all of its momentum from trivial or petty acrimony both protagonists come out like schmucks and it becomes difficult to invest in their well-deserved self-destructions. Still, both Douglas and Turner are very good given their limited roles, and with DeVito's deft eye for comic details, there is plenty to laugh at to cover up the pain. Fox's Special Edition DVD incorporates materials previously found on their Laserdisc. The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is solid, as is the Dolby 2.0 Surround mix. DeVito contributes an engaging commentary and also an amusing introduction to a 21-minute reel of deleted scenes (the original cut, he says, was over three hours long). This disc also includes storyboards, sketches, the entire screenplay, trailers, and TV spots. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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