Melanie Griffith and Patrick Swayze used to be rather big names in Hollywood. Now, they are relegated to films such as "Along For The Ride." Granted, Swayze is still not a bad looking fellow and Melanie Griffith is still the spicy thing. With the actor's aging sex appeal, the packaging description that contains the sentence "Together on a fiery cross-country journey they will find a new direction that points to their future" and "Years ago, they had an intense passionate affair," you would expect some spiciness or playfulness that the two actors were capable of just a few years back. You couldn't be more wrong.
"Along For The Ride" is not as much a road movie with sex, humor and Griffith running around naked every other scene. It is a drama that takes a look at the problems associated with adoption. Adoption can be a difficult thing if the biological parents decided to meet a child that does not know he is adopted. It can be hard for both sets of parents. "Along For The Ride" spends a bit of time playing around with the viewer and then tries to handle this situation in a limited amount of time without showing any of the emotional power that would be associated with such a meeting.
In the film, Melanie Griffith is Lulu and Patrick Swayze is Ben. Ben is now a successful television writer and Lulu is a mental patient. For years, she has hid a secret from Ben that they have a child together. Just prior to their son Martin's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) eighteenth birthday, Lulu escapes from her hospital and seeks out Ben to travel cross-country to meet her son. Ben is married to Claire (Penelope Anne Miller), and takes off with Lulu. This leaves Claire afraid for her marriage and sends her on a plane trip to meet up with Ben and Lulu and explore whether or not the story about Martin is true, or if Ben is cheating on her.
Eventually, Lulu tries stealing Ben away from Claire. Claire finds herself having an affair during the journey, and the three meet in a tense filled encounter in a hotel lobby. To make matters worse, not all that Lulu has told Ben is true. Martin's parents did not have an agreement to meet Ben and Lulu and when the dinner is finally arranged, everybody involved is at ends and the futures of Ben and Lulu, Ben and Claire and Martin and his biological parents are all seemingly close to being non-existent. Martin does not want anything to due with Ben and Lulu. Claire and Ben are fighting and Lulu starts to wig out.
The drama builds, but is wrapped up quickly. This is the primary problem of the picture. It starts out wanting to be a steamy and playful film between two people who previously had a strong relationship. It then tries to change to a drama about two people who have a son together and desire to meet him against his wishes and stress a potential problem with adoption. It doesn't succeed on either end. Sure, there is some very brief nudity, so if you are looking for a Melanie Griffith skin flick, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a serious drama on the subject, look again. This picture does not succeed in being that either.
I have recently witnessed a relatively large number of direct-to-video or made for television DVD releases. They are generally presented in a 1.33:1 full frame transfer. "Along For The Ride" is no exception. However, I suspect this is a pan and scan transfer and was not originally shot for full frame. Other than that, the picture quality is decent. Over edge enhancement is abundant. There were also a few digital artifacts. Source materials appear to have been clean. Detail was good, as were black level, color saturation and contrast, but the finished product is not what is typically expected from Artisan. It is good, but there are some problems.
"Along For The Ride" is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo Surround. Dialogue is clear and intelligible. The front speakers handle most of the sound information presented by the soundtrack. Most of this film is dialogue driven and you would not typically expect a wide range of audible effects, but the music exhibits strong bass and crisp high ends. The rear surrounds were generally silent, and that was to be expected. No subtitles are provided.
It doesn't get any more basic than this. When the menu comes up, there are two selections. You can either view the trailer or watch the film. I cannot remember the last time a disc was this basic. There aren't even any chapters listed on the included paper insert. There are chapter stops on the disc, but no mention of them anywhere. Did Artisan just release this on DVD to make whatever cash they could? Judging by the menus, Pan and Scan transfer and the complete lack of any supplements or content, I'd have to say yes.
Browsing the Internet Movie Data Base for information on this title, I saw two little tidbits. First, the film was initially titled "Forever Lulu." Secondly, and what is a curiosity to me is the budget is listed as $20 million. After watching this movie, I really wonder where the money went, or what it was used for. I really consider this an error in the usually reputable database, because "Forever Lulu" is visibly a low-budget film and its DVD release, titled "Along For The Ride" shows this fact well. There isn't even a chapter selection for the DVD. The film is not a terribly bad movie, but Artisan seems to be making the DVD sounds like a thrilling ‘road movie.' It really is not and only hardcore Swayze or Griffith fans will find value in this title.