Steve Martin was a bonafide superstar in the eighties. Star of beloved comedies like The Jerk, The Man with Two Brains and Parenthood. Martin was on top of the world, with one success after another. He had a particularly big year in 1987 with the release of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Also that year, was Roxanne, an update of the classic tale Cyrano de Bergerac, which finds itself back in stores this week in a dual-format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition, courtesy of Eureka Entertainment.
Martin, who also wrote the script, is C.D. Bales, a kind and pleasant man, who works as the fire chief of his town. Though his life seems perfect, he is afflicted with a particularly gigantic nose, and it seems to be a significant roadblock in his quest for romance. The object of his desire is Roxanne (Darryl Hannah), an astronomy student who appears at C.D.’s door one night, stark naked, after being locked out of her house. The two instantly develop a friendship, but things become complicated when Roxanne reveals she has feelings for Chris (Rick Rossovich), the new firefighter in town. C.D. agrees to help coach Chris into winning over Roxanne’s heart, and hijinks ensue as C.D. wants Roxanne for himself.
Plot-wise, the film is highly reminiscent of many romantic comedies before and after its release, and many of those have executed the concept to a greater effect. Martin’s script often feels more like an effort to stitch various gags together, rather than an attempt to tell a cohesive story. The gags, thankfully, are mostly successful, and there is a particularly excellent scene where C.D. makes twenty cutting jokes about his own nose. When not celebrating Martin and company’s comic abilities, the film drags, and its formulaic plot makes its 107-minute runtime feel a lot longer.
The more into the story Roxanne gets, the more uncomfortable things become. While the film may have felt charming and lovely thirty years ago, its challenging to see the film in the same light today. C.D.’s coaching of Chris to get Roxanne to fall for him is disturbingly manipulative. Chris is used a pawn, and instead of simply sharing his feelings with Roxanne, C.D. concocts a massive scheme to try and trick her into loving him. It all begins innocently enough, but as C.D. gets deeper into lies, instead of coming clean, he commits even further. The last twenty minutes feel so strange, and its conclusion so stilted that it’s all quite baffling. A few decades later, and it is far more difficult to ignore Roxanne’s blatant sexism.
Problems aside, Roxanne does have its moments. Martin, in particular, is tremendous as C.D., his gift for comedy is as evident as ever, and the film features one of his finest performances. The make-up and prosthetics really impress, as the aforementioned big nose is particularly convincing. The cast as a whole is strong, Rossovich is brilliant, and Hannah does the best she can as the titular character, considering just how thin the role feels. Roxanne often does deliver in the comedy department, and provides consistent laughs. Regardless, the films charm burns a lot less brightly thirty years on, and its problems feel overwhelming.
Which brings us to the Blu-Ray release itself. The audio and video presentations are impressive, and the (admittedly dated) 80s charm feels all the more distinct in high-definition. It is a strange choice, though, that this re-release comes without any special features, and the discs only extra is the original trailer. A commentary, interviews, or any sort of bonus content would have gone a long way in contextualizing the films importance, and most importantly, making this a worthwhile purchase. This one, then, is just for fans of Steve Martin’s work and the diehard fans of the film itself.