SERENDIPITY – Blu-ray review

“And in a perfect act of serendipiocity or serendipaciousness, he runs into in a beautiful, attractive English girl with a boyfriend.” – Jonathan, “Serendipity”

In the opening moments of “Serendipity” (2001), we see John Cusack’s character, Jonathan, flirting with a young English lady, Sara (Kate Beckinsale), in the hope that she will give him her phone number. In order to impress Sara, Jonathan constructs a story, with Sara blushing at every word. Nonetheless, their meeting is not coincidental, as moments earlier they were trying to buy the last pair of black gloves at Bloomingdale’s. No matter how hard Jonathan tries to impress Sara, she is not going to give in. Sara asks Jonathan to write his number on a $5 bill, and she writes her phone number in a book, which she is going to sell at a used bookstore. If it’s their destiny to meet again, then the $5 bill and the book will be in their possession at some point in the future. Years later, Sara and Jonathan are with their respective partners and are about to be married soon. But they get cold feet about their marriages, and Jonathan and Sara decide to find each other again, with the help of their friends.

The film’s premise is driven by the destiny of its characters. Sara believes in fate, and her character dictates the course of things to follow. Jonathan, on the other hand, appears bewildered by the whole notion of “destiny,” but decides to go with the flow, nonetheless. The film, surely, has a charming tone, but it fails to develop the concept into something thoughtful. The characters are busy in setting their destinies, forcibly, and the script fails to develop the background on the key players. Destiny, after all, can’t be forced, but the characters enforce a destiny-like situation in a childlike manner; for characters, the story of their life becomes a game, even when they are separate for a few years.

As a romantic flick, the filmmakers have thrown in a number of cutesy moments to capture our attention. Notably, the skating scene at the Rockefeller center is well done, with characters discussing something meaningful. But the connection to the characters is lost right after this scene. Even when the two romantic souls part ways, we really don’t feel much for them because the script focuses heavily on the “fate” elements, and in the process it forgets about the characters. Sara and Jonathan’s feelings for each other are never discussed, and their instant attraction never goes beyond their smiling faces.

The story of a boy meeting a girl in “Serendipity” works as a fantasy, too. Sara and Jonathan take the idea of fate too seriously, and the film never threatens to become realistic. For them, they are blessed to have each other, and nothing around them matters anymore. In addition, Sara and Jonathan’s relationship to each other is one-dimensional, lacking a conflict to weigh “fate” in relation to their real-life situations. As such, none of this elevates the film, and “Serendipity” becomes an utterly predictable ride. As there is nothing complex about the characters, Cusack and Beckinsale are merely serviceable in their roles. Not much is expected in terms of performances, and for both the characters, the chemistry is absent both physically and emotionally.

“Serendipity,” in the end, is too sugarcoated; and even as an escapist romantic flick, the film fails to ignite any spark for the audience. The characters are contrived, the story is unrealistic, and in spite of the presence of charismatic leads, “Serendipity” is soon forgotten after the movie ends.

“Serendipity” makes its Blu-ray debut with a pleasing-looking 1080p transfer that is encoded using an AVC codec and framed in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Mostly, the transfer is clean, with no trace of print damage or specks on the print. The detail is good, and the image stays sharp throughout. There is grain evident in a few scenes, making it a filmic transfer. The colors are solid, too, and the New York cityscape has nice detail. Finally, the flesh tones are realistic, with a warm look.

Being a dialogue-driven film, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track comes out clean and crisp, with dialogue staying consistently audible. The rear channels are activated in the skating sequence, but mostly the front channels do the bulk of the work. The hustle and bustle of New York City streets is well represented by this track. The movie can also be viewed with English and Spanish subtitles.

Lionsgate has retained all the bonus features from their earlier DVD release. First, we get an audio commentary track with director Peter Chelsom, who explains the project and how the skating sequence was filmed. This is a slow track but has plenty of technical information. Following this, there is a regular “making-of” featurette showing interviews with the cast and crew, along with clips from the movie. Up next, we get a text featurette, “Peter Chelsom’s Production Diary,” that explains several scenes from the film. Next, there are deleted scenes with commentary by the director. After that, a storyboard segment shows the golf driving range scene. Finally, we get the film’s original theatrical trailer.

Parting Thoughts:
“Serendipity” takes a conventional approach to represent a unique take on a love story. The story and characters, however, lack depth; as a result, the film never becomes emotionally memorable. Certainly, there are entertaining comedy sequences, but they act more as filler in the story. The Blu-ray is an improvement over the previous DVD release, so fans of the movie should check out this Blu-ray release.