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A CHORUS LINE

Review by Chastity Campbell

Stars: Michael Douglas
Director: Richard Attenborough
Audio: Dolby Digital Surround
Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 118 Minutes
Release Date: April 15, 2003

“My real name is Sidney Kenneth Beckinstein. My Jewish name is Rochmelev Ben Yockave Mire Beckinstein. And my professional name is Gregory Gardener!”

Film ***

A Chorus Line received high praise for its high kicking impressionism during it’s record run on Broadway, but does it measure up on DVD? 

This movie watches like a modern day documentary following a group of dancers as they vie for a spot in the hottest director in town’s new show.     

Michael Douglas plays the hard-nosed and sometimes unlikable Zach.  Zach is out to put a show together that will be bolder and glitzier than anything Broadway has to offer.  Something with an actual heart and soul, but first, he has to pick four women and four men from the group of 16 that danced their way through the preliminary round while singing one of the shows first songs, “I Hope I Get It!” 

Once the 16 finalists step to the line, it’s not their quick feet, and stylish moves that Zach is interested in, it’s who they are inside.   He starts off the process by asking each dancer some personal questions like, “Mike, what made you want to be a dancer?”  This kicks off one of the funnier numbers in the show, “I Can Do That.”  The story of how Mike had to follow his sister to her dancing lessons and kept thinking hey, I can do that! 

“I Can Do That,” is just one of the awesome numbers this show has to offer.  “Dance:10, Looks 3”, more commonly known as the “tits and ass”, song is hilarious.  However, you can’t see a musical without a few sad songs because they say so much about a person.  Take “At The Ballet” sang by Sheila, Maggie, and Bebe.  Its haunting melody and beautiful lyrics help bring the sometimes flighty nature of the characters sharply back into focus by showing their softer side.  

If there is “One” singular sensation during this movie it was the music and lyrics written by Marvin Hamlisch.  His ability to weave a story within a story through music is breathtaking.   I can only imagine what feelings and emotions his songs evoked during the original first run of this show on Broadway.  Not to be outdone by Mr. Hamlisch is the choreographer, Jeffrey Hornaday.   He shows no fear as he combines ballet and what was then modern 8’s dance moves to demonstrate the diversity of these dancers.   He truly molded the choreography of this movie into a brilliant and amazing thing to watch.  

People may complain that some songs from the original Broadway production were taken out or replaced with more modernized versions of the ones people had come to know and love.  That’s what movie magic is all about though…appreciating things for what they are, and then making them your own.   Director Richard Attenborough demonstrates this by integrating old and new and having it flow smoothly.   For anyone like myself who never had the pleasure of seeing the Broadway version, you won’t realize you’re missing a thing. 

Now we come to the subplot of the movie.  I was okay with things up and until this point, and then I was like…huh?   Cassie is the long lost love of Zach the director.  She was an amazing dancer that left New York’s bright lights for the Hollywood hills.  She didn’t make it and after the 16 finalists are chosen she arrives in-house to audition and shake things up a bit. Zach is none too happy to see her because it evokes memories from the past that he had thought long forgotten.   Maybe that’s why he’s so crabby…she left town and even stiffed him on the electric bill!  

Cassie pushes her luck, and Zach pushes her away, as the 16 finalists push each other to the breaking point.   Who will make the cut, and who will be left singing in the rain?  Pick up A Chorus Line (no, not a chorus girl, I said A Chorus Line, sheesh) on DVD today to find out!

Video **

This 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer did not present a very pretty digital picture.  The images were a bit fuzzy at times, and there was a lot of dirt visible.  From the way things look it didn’t appear that much, if any cleaning was done with this print.    There were quite a few creases in the film that were visibly enhanced by it’s transfer to DVD. 

Transferring 80s movies to DVD is always a game of hit and miss, and I have to say this one missed!

Audio **

On the flip side of this record is the audio, and I hate to say it but the sound of music wasn’t very impressive on this DVD.  The Dolby Digital Surround was a mix of ups and downs.  It was obvious in the beginning of the disc that the balance and mix between filmed and looped dialogue was a problem.  The difference in the acoustics between the two was very audible and frequent. 

There was no white noise or hum present which made for a somewhat enjoyable audio experience but not enough to give this DVD the rave reviews I wanted to.  

Features **

The menus were interactive with the option of English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

A featurette on the songwriting genius Marvin Hamlisch goes into the mind of the man who gave us “One” the singular sensation that rocked Broadway.  Get inside info on how he was chosen to write the music that won’t stop dancing around your head once you’ve heard it.   Also, find out what inspiration led to him to writing those Oscar nominated songs!

The original theatrical trailer for A Chorus Line soft shoes its way into the fray and thus brings to a close the features section of this DVD.

Summary:

A Chorus Line was a Broadway wonder that still resonates in the hearts and minds of everyone who has ever seen it.  This DVD while carrying on the same spirit that made the Broadway version great, does bring it’s own level of genius to the table.  So fox trot on out and let your debit card do the electric slide, so you can bring home this DVD today.