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Fox Home Entertainment presents
The Commitments (1991)

"Say it once, say it loud. I'm black and I'm proud!"
- Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins)

Review By: Brian Calhoun  
Published: March 14, 2004

Stars: Robert Arkins, Michael Aherne, Angeline Ball, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Dave Finnegan, Bronagh Gallagher, Félim Gormley, Glen Hansard, Dick Massey, Johnny Murphy, Kenneth McCluskey, Andrew Strong
Other Stars: Colm Meaney, Anne Kent, Andrea Corr
Director: Alan Parker

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual situations
Run Time: 01h:57m:33s
Release Date: March 16, 2004
UPC: 024543112990
Genre: musical comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-AA- B+

DVD Review

Alan Parker is one of my most admired filmmakers. In addition to directing so many exceptional films, each of them proves completely different in style and substance from the previous effort. Parker has stated that he would like to work in every genre possible, and he is certainly well on his way. He may, however, want to consider including more musicals in his résumé—The Commitments proves that he has an innate talent for them.

The film is based on a short story by Roddy Doyle, a humorous tale about a local "soul" band named The Commitments in Dublin, Ireland. While I will not go into the irony of white Dubliners playing "soul" music, I will go on the record to say that they are surprisingly good at it. The band consists of 10 members: a male lead vocalist, three female backup vocalists, drums, bass guitar, rhythm and lead guitar, piano, and a horn section consisting of a saxophone and a trumpet. While they all make wonderful music together on stage, they often lose their tempers with one another offstage, as is all too often the case with music groups that have so many egos in the mix.

While the story is somewhat straightforward, the film is abundant with typical Irish, foul-mouthed, laugh-out-loud humor. Yet, however funny the film is, the comedy is superceded by the fantastic music. Performing blistering renditions of numerous soul classics by Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, and Aretha Franklin, The Commitments create a unique sound that is guaranteed to get anyone's heart racing. The 10-piece band sounds enormous, particularly thanks to the masculine power of the lead vocals by 16-year-old Deco (Andrew Strong).

If I have one complaint, it is that the characters are brilliantly set up but never quite fully fleshed out. Ultimately, I felt like I had a wonderful introduction to them, but never truly got to know any of them. Whether it is the feisty manager Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins), established trumpeter Joey "The Lips" Fagan (Johnny Murphy), or the vulgar and uncouth Deco, each of the musicians has an engaging personality, all of which I would have like to have seen more developed. Additionally, I felt as if several of the characters were somewhat mishandled. Specifically, I wondered why the screenwriters made Deco into such an unlovable jerk. I would have liked to have seen a sweeter personality go along with his outstanding voice. Nevertheless, the lack of character development is indeed outclassed by the brazen humor, and any personality quirks are all forgotten when the band takes the stage.

Overall, The Commitments is a joyful film to watch. Alan Parker has once again proved himself a master filmmaker by keeping his film so faithfully grounded in the world of the Dublin music scene. By casting all unknown Dublin musicians in the lead roles, he has lent a natural realism to the film that would have undoubtedly been lacking had he cast Hollywood A-list actors with no musical talent. Thanks to Parker's shrewd attention to detail, a hilarious script, and a wonderful cast of musicians, The Commitments has as much soul as the music it pays tribute to.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The newly remastered 1.85:1 image transfer is absolutely fantastic, particularly for a 13-year-old film. Color, black level, and detail are exemplary, lending a crisp and vivid characteristic to the picture. I did not even notice the often glaringly perceptible presence of edge enhancement. I have no complaints about this outstanding transfer, which appears as impressive as the exceptional transfers of more recent films.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrench, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is superb in terms of fidelity. Much of the soundtrack is dialogue based and mono-centric with little ambiance. While spoken words are clear, the timbre from the center channel sounds slightly thin. The music performances are where this soundtrack truly excels. Each instrument is carefully placed within the sound stage, providing a pleasing and natural sonic environment. I was happy to hear that the music leans toward the front sound stage, yet surround sound fans will likely be displeased with the lack of surround envelopment. While not necessarily multi-channel demo material, high marks go to this transfer for its clarity and detail.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 40 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 TV Spots/Teasers
3 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Alan Parker
Packaging: Book Gatefold
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:03m:21s

Extra Extras:
  1. Music Video
  2. Original Songs by Cast Members
  3. Radio Spots
  4. Still Gallery
Extras Review: Beginning on Disc One is a feature-length commentary by director Alan Parker. While Parker is very informative, his delivery is a bit dry, making him difficult to listen to for an extended period of time. Nevertheless, the filmmaker delivers a worthwhile analysis of his film, guaranteed to satisfy those interested in the art of filmmaking.

The rest of the special features belong to Disc Two, beginning with The Making of Alan Parker's Film The Commitments. This is a fairly routine documentary, yet quite interesting thanks to several revealing tidbits of the film's production.

Next, is a lengthier and more exciting documentary titled The Commitments: Looking Back. This is a present-day look at the making of The Commitments, complete with input from the cast and crew. I quite enjoyed this "Where Are They Now"-style look at the faces of The Commitments, and where their paths may have led after the success of the film.

The third documentary is Dublin Soul: The Working Class and Changing Face of Dublin. Aside from minimal participation by several cast members, this has little to do with The Commitments and is really more of a history lesson about the city of Dublin. Overall, I found this feature a bit tedious.

The making-of featurette is an old promotional piece created prior to the film's release. The only thing found here are loads of clips from the film and interview footage that we have already seen in the first documentary. Basically, this featurette is a waste of time and space.

A music video has been included for Treat Her Right, which is the only song that talented musician Robert Arkins was allowed to sing. Nevertheless, the footage ultimately ended up on the cutting room floor. Complete with an introduction by Alan Parker and Robert Arkins, the footage for this jovial song can now be seen thanks to DVD.

An interesting section contains original songs recently written and recorded by cast members Andrew Strong and Robert Arkins. Strong's number is a fairly cheesy pop song made worthwhile by his vocals prowess, while Arkins' tune is an empty folk rock number that sounds rather drab.

Finishing up the extras is promotional material, including a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen theatrical trailer, six TV spots, four radio spots, and a still gallery consisting of behind-the-scenes photos. Each section is mildly enjoyable and will likely put its viewers in the mood to watch The Commitments.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

The Commitments combines my two favorite art forms (music and cinema) into an irresistibly enjoyable motion picture. Anyone who is a fan of either music or movies will undoubtedly take pleasure in this musical extravaganza. While the original DVD release (with a full-frame transfer, 2.0 soundtrack, and glaring lack of special features) certainly left much to be desired, this new two-disc set more than compensates with a fantastic image transfer, an excellent new 5.1 soundtrack, and a sizeable collection of extras.

Highly Recommended.

 


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