Beaches Garry Marshall

This is the quintessential '80s chick flick with the capacity to reduce women and men to tears for entirely different reasons. Bette Midler is a loud and brassy singer from the Bronx; Barbara Hershey is the repressed rich girl in need of a rescue. They meet as children under the Atlantic City boardwalk, become fast friends and have a frantically eventful friendship as Bette rises and falls as a celebrity and Barbara falls and rises as a lawyer. Having dreaded seeing this film for years (with the combination of Midler and sitcom king Garry Marshall boding very ill), I was surprised to find myself in the critical middle: it's neither as bad as its male detractors would claim nor as good as its female fan base would insist. In its favour is a very, very eventful script crammed full of stuff, including a theatre director (John Heard) to fight over, a bullying father, a cheating husband, a baby and a killer disease. Working against it is the genre's formless tendency to never work towards much of a theme and pile on crises like explosions in a Stallone movie. But though I'd never watch it twice, I didn't quite resent it, and given Marshall's track record, you could do worse. Much worse. Extras include a Marshall commentary full of obvious observations and condescending humour; an interesting interview with Mayim Bialik, who assayed the role of Midler's child self; the video for "Wind Beneath My Wings" that's sure to thrill readers of this magazine; Barbara Hershey's screen test, which plays better than some scenes in the movie; a tiny clip of Midler from AFI's "100 Years... 100 Songs"; a 1988 gag reel with some crew member's snarky (and entertaining) editorialising; and the trailer. (Buena Vista)