Certainly, the musical is a long-lost genre (I'm not exactly complaining as it's always been high on my list of least favorite genres). The last attempt at a theatrical release was the filmed version of the popular musical "The Fantasticks". The film sat on the shelf for five years at MGM before Francis Ford Coppla came in and re-edited it into a releasable version, which played on only 5 screens before heading to video.
Television has really become the only home that has taken the musical out of the cold. An example of this was this recent 15 million dollar remake of "South Pacific", which didn't get massive ratings and only received mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike. The film stars Glenn Close as Nellie Forbush, an American from Little Rock, Arkansas, who joined the Navy to see the world. On a remote island in the middle of World War II, she finds herself falling for wealthy plantation owner Emile (Rade Serbedzija); meanwhile, an American arriving on the island for a secret mission (Harry Connick, Jr) falls in love with a local girl. The remainder of the film mainly focuses on the obstacles both romances must face.
It's been several years since I've seen the original film and I must admit that I really don't remember a great deal about it, so I will discuss this version. The main problem with the film is its cast. Although Close also produced the picture, she seems a little too old for the role and although she certainly brings energy to the role, she also can't seem to sing that well. It's the opposite case for Harry Connick, Jr. who can sing well, but whose acting seemed rather wooden. Right in the middle is Serbedzija, who sings fairly well and gives a fine performance. In a supporting role, Joe Pastorelli ("Murphy Brown") took things a little overboard in trying to create comic relief. One or two scenes displayed some fairly poor special effects.
I found Disney's update of "South Pacific" to be a watchable picture, but I didn't really think that it was that exceptional anyway. The acting and singing was mixed across the board, and I really didn't see a reason why this had to be remade, except for the fact that producer/star Close is apparently a big fan.
VIDEO: "South Pacific" is presented in its original 1.33:1 broadcast aspect ratio. Although not a flawless presentation, I would be willing to bet that this presentation beats the quality of the original broadcast. Although the picture does appear slightly soft by intention, the majority of the film still appears very crisp and well-defined, with good detail, even in the dimly lit scenes. A strong amount of depth to the image was even visible in most scenes.
Problems were extremely minor. A couple of trace amounts of pixelation were visible, but hardly distracting. I didn't see any instances of edge enhancement or print flaws. The great majority of the picture seemed crisp, clear and lovely.
Speaking of lovely, colors looked especially superb, well-saturated and clean. Colors never looked smeared or displayed any other problems. With the location's gorgeous scenery, there were plenty of instances where vibrant colors were on display. Flesh tones looked accurate and natural,as well. Not a perfect picture, but a very enjoyable viewing experience.
SOUND: The pleasant suprise of the DVD - and a reason why I chose to review it - was that Disney has seen fit to include both a Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 presentation for what was originally a television film. Although Disney has unfortunately not been including DTS on quite as many releases since they started doing more DTS earlier this year, it's certainly appreciated here, even if the film's sound does not provide a particularly active sound experience. The majority of the film has the surrounds providing reinforcement for the music and inconsistent ambient sounds - opportunities during a few scenes for greater surround use are missed.
Audio quality was generally very good, but it didn't reach as high as I'd hoped. The music sounds crisp and clear, but it's also mainly focused from the front speakers, with only little reinforcement from the surrounds. Ambient sounds came through sounding natural and clear, but I would have liked to have heard more consistent background sounds, especially considering the exotic locales. Overall, although it doesn't deliver the most remarkable surround-sound experience, I appreciated the fact that Disney has included both DTS and Dolby Digital soundtracks.
MENUS:: The menus are not animated, but offer film-themed images and the score in the background of the main menu.
On Location With Glenn Close: This is a 21 minute promotional documentary hosted by Close, who discusses the history of the musical up to the current production that she stars in here. The documentary is a little corny at times and does fill out the proceedings with a bit too much in the way of promotional discussion and clips from the picture, but there are also some interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits and clips. The behind-the-scenes footage takes the viewer into the rehearsals for the singing as well as onto the location for filming.
Deleted Scene: A deleted scene presenting the cast performing "My Girl Back Home".
Final Thoughts: Although there were some extremely negative reviews of "South Pacific", I found it basically watchable, but still had mixed feelings about it, myself. In the end, the reason for making this update still seems lost on me. For those who enjoyed this picture though, Disney has provided a DVD that certainly improves upon the viewing experience when it was first broadcast, with very good audio/video quality.
The Film ** 1/2
Video 85/B = (340/400 possible points)
Audio: 85/B = (340/400 possible points)
Extras: 74/C = (222/300 possible points)
Menus: 79/C+ = (158/200 possible points)
Value: 82/B = (246/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: ** 1/2
DVD GRADE: B