Although Barbara Streisand hasn't found recent success ("Mirror Has Two Faces" didn't bring in much of an audience), her cinematic career did start off with an impressive string of hits, including "What's Up, Doc?", "Hello, Dolly" and "The Way We Were". "Funny Girl" was her first big-screen role after several small-screen performances in the mid-60's. "Funny Girl" earned Streisand further fame along with a Best Actress Oscar for her performance as show-biz star Fanny Brice.
Although I've never been a fan of the actress, "Funny Girl" presents a more fast, funny and sharp actress that I find more appealing than her dramatic efforts. Her performance here is often quite funny and award-worthy; even though "Funny Girl" does go noticably too long at over two and half hours, the film's energy and Streisand's performance manage to keep the film from wearing out its welcome till towards the last quarter.
It certainly helped that the film was crafted by legendary director William Wyler, who also directed "Ben Hur", "Best Years Of Our Lives", "Little Foxes" and Wuthering Heights (1939). A restored "Funny Girl" comes to DVD just a few weeks after the restored version of the film has completed a successful ($225,000) run on a handful of screens.
VIDEO: "Funny Girl" was recently re-released into theaters earlier this year with both restored audio and video. This edition is taken from that restored material, and Tristar's DVD presentation is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I have to say that, aside from a few minor faults, I was instantly impressed by image quality. Sharpness and detail are occasionally remarkable, such as the street sequence early on at about 13 minutes in, which boasted terrific depth and strong detail even in the backgrounds. Sharpness was wonderfully consistent throughout the movie, with no instances of softness that I noticed.
Edge enhancement was generally the only problem. While not terrible or consistently visible, there were a few scenes where it was apparent and slightly irritating. Other than that, the print was in nearly perfect condition. Although I did notice a speckle or two, there was no further wear such as marks or scratches. No pixelation or any other artifacts were seen. I would really have liked to have seen a restoration featurette like Criterion occasionally presents, since a movie of "Funny Girl"'s age being in this kind of condition is an impressive feat and I would have liked to know more about how it was done.
I'd be suprised if colors appeared as fresh and vibrant as they do here in the film's original theatrical release. The film's near-rainbow color palette was reproduced wonderfully throughout, looking rich and well-saturated. Aside from a few minor faults, this is extremely nice work. There are a number of sequences throughout the movie that make me wish that I had one of those computers that allow the viewer to grab screen shots, so I could show off how strong this presentation often looked. Subtitles are presented in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai.
SOUND: Again, the audio is presented in a new, restored Dolby Digital 5.0 presentation. While I didn't expect an impressive amount of activity from the new surround remix, I was generally pleased with what I heard. There isn't much activity in the surrounds, but the re-inforcement of the music that the rear speakers offer is appropriate and enjoyable. Audio quality was fine, as the restored sound offered fine fidelity. The music sounded warm and crisp, while dialogue and singing remained crystal clear.
MENUS:: Although subtle, the nicely animated main menu (made to look like a theater matinee, with clips in the background) is quite well done and a fine introduction to the disc.
EXTRAS:: "Barbara In Movieland" is a strange and worn featurette that shows how an old train station was turned into a "Funny Girl" set; "This is Streisand" is an additional old promotional featurette about the actress. Also included is the ability to jump to "song highlights" and bonus trailers for "Mirror Has Two Faces", "For Pete's Sake" and "The Prince Of Tides".
Final Thoughts: "Funny Girl" fans should be quite pleased with the film's beautiful new image quality and fine audio. The only place where this release falls short is supplements, but it's still quite a nice release. Recommended.
The Film ***
Video 93/A = (372/400 possible points)
Audio: 84/B = (336/400 possible points)
Extras: 72/C = (216/300 possible points)
Menus: 90/A- = (180/200 possible points)
Value: 83/B = (249/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ***
DVD GRADE: B