Dave Chappelle is most known now for the wildly successful "Chappelle's Show" and the fallout when the comedian decided to leave the series after a $50m deal to keep the show running. However, fans of the actor know that, before his Comedy Central series, Chappelle was an exceptional stand-up comedian and an actor who, even in supporting roles, could easily steal just about any scene with ease.
"Dave Chappelle's Block Party" is further proof of Chappelle's talent. As funny as "Chappelle's Show" was - and it was sublimely funny at times - Chappelle impresses here when he's simply out on the street, chatting with people. He doesn't need to goof on people to get a laugh; his quick wit looks for the shared laugh in any situation and it's remarkable how fast he finds it.
"Block Party" sees Chappelle looking to bring people together to share a good time at a concert in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood. Early in the picture, Chappelle heads back to his Ohio hometown and starts handing out golden tickets (food, concert, transit and hotel) to people ranging from old folks on the street to a woman he buys smokes from. The real highlight from the Ohio sequences is the sight of Chappelle wandering up to a school marching band and asking them if they'd like to come to Brooklyn to perform. Some discussion later, they freak out when it's confirmed that they're going to be headed East. Not long after, they find themselves as part of the backup band for Kanye West.
The concert is a remarkable event, bringing together Kanye West, a reunited Fugees, Common, the Roots and Erykah Badu, among others. Chappelle sees it as a chance to put together the concert he's always wanted to see, to bring the neighborhood together and to welcome people from other places and backgrounds together to enjoy a day of food and music. The majority of the people brought in had no idea what was going to happen or who was going to be there, just that there was going to be a concert. It rains, but who cares? The crowd's far too caught up in the day's events to care less about some drizzle. The musicians seem equally freed by the energy of the day and the setting, turning in performances that are often electrifying.
Director Michel Gondry's picture cuts back-and-forth between the preparations for the event and the concert itself. While the cuts are sometimes a little jarring, the film mostly has a loose rhythm that works. Working with famed cinematographer Ellen Kuras (Gondry's "Enternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", Gondry's film captures both the concert sequences and Chappelle's memorable on-the-street chats expertly.
Those expecting "Chappelle's Show" are going to be disappointed. Chappelle has some incredibly funny moments here, but he's not the focus. "Block Party" is just that - an attempt to create fun and unity that happens to have an incredible soundtrack playing behind it and pushing it forward. Whether you're a hip-hop fan or not, this is a documentary with great energy and a lot of heart.
The unrated DVD edition offers about 6 minutes of additional footage, as well as the option to play the movie with the option to see extended musical performances.
VIDEO: "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" is presented by Universal Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Shot with a mixture of 16mm and digital video cameras, the picture - considering the rather rough material - looked mostly terrific. Sharpness and detail are mostly first-rate, although occasional shots look somewhat softer.
The presentation did show a few minor concerns, but they didn't take away too much from the proceedings. Light edge enhancement was spotted at times and a couple of minor instances of artifacting were seen. Otherwise, the pictre mostly appeared clean and clear. Colors looked natural and crisp, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation is terrific. It must be noted, however, those who need to control the volume may want to keep the remote handy, because the documentary frequently goes back-and-forth between bassy, dynamic-sounding performances and quieter, dialogue-driven moments. Those without volume restrictions can crank it up, as the audio for the concert sequences is terrific. The audio is rich and dynamic, with solid bass and a good "live" feel to the sound. As for the dialogue-driven scenes, dialogue comes through crisply and clearly, with no distortion or other issues.
EXTRAS: "September In Brooklyn" is a 28-minute documentary that looks into how the concert came together, offers interviews with the musicians and Gondry (who does have quite an accent.) "Ohio Players" is an 18-minute piece that offers some additional footage of the folks from Ohio who were invited along for the ride, including post-concert reactions and the bus ride.
Final Thoughts: "Block Party" is a great deal of fun, with great performances and some very funny moments from Chappelle. The DVD offers very good audio/video quality and a couple of nice extras. Highly recommended.