..

THE COMMITMENTS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Robert Arkins, Michael Aherne, Angeline Ball, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Dave Finnegan, Bronagh Gallagher, Felim Gormley, Glen Hansard, Dick Massey, Johnny Murphy, Kenneth McCluskey, Andrew Strong, Colm Meaney
Director: Alan Parker
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length 117 Minutes
Release Date: March 16, 2004

The Irish are the blacks of Europe. Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. North Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin."

Film ****

There has hardly been a single movie infused with equal doses of music and comedy as Alan Parker's The Commitments. It's a celebration of one of the most definitive genres of music, soul. It's also the tale of the trials and comical tribulations of a struggling soul rock band in one of the least likely settings, Dublin, Ireland. In addition, director Parker went to great lengths in casting a group of unknowns with incredible music abilities, thus bringing the look and feel of the band to life. The result is one of the most enjoyable and accomplished musically driven films of all time.

Working from a novel by the Irish novelist Roddy Doyle, the story tells of a young lad named Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins), who plans to put together and manage the first soul singing band to come out of Ireland. He holds an extended audition session, including of a hugely funny montage scene involving numerous and non-talented hopefuls knocking on Jimmy's front door. It isn't too long before Jimmy has virtually struck out of luck based on the quality of his auditions.

Then one night, he spots some luck at a wedding party, in the form of Deco Cuffe (Andrew Strong). As the wedding band is on a break, Deco picks up the microphone and begins to wail out his lungs, which sound like that of a pure Motown vet. To give you an idea about Deco's appearance, he suggests the look of Meat Loaf, but has a voice that is par with that of Joe Cocker. Upon noticing his first big breaking discovery, Jimmy wastes no time in putting the rest of the band together.

Among the other fellow hired musicians, they include the aging Joey Fagan, aka Joey The Lips (Johnny Murphy), a trumpet player who claims to have toured and played with the likes of Wilson Pickett, B.B. King, and Little Richard, three quite attractive female backup singers, Imelda (Angeline Ball), Natalie (Maria Doyle Kennedy), and Bernie (Bronagh Gallagher), who make up the Commitment-ettes.

All of the non-actors manage to give very good performances, particularly Robert Arkins as the put upon manager, but the real star of this movie is the music. Among the songs performed by the band are the soul classics "Mustang Sally", "In the Midnight Hour", "Chain of Fools", and a most show stopping rendition of "Try a Little Tenderness", where in which the voice of Andrew Strong really epitomizes the fueling power of soul music.

The Commitments remains one of, I think, one of the more important musically driven films. The movie is real in every aspect in terms of the people it depicts, the music they're performing, and the setting, which is the absolute best place to ever usher in the power of soul music.

Video ***1/2

First off, a major congrats to the people at Fox for finally making this film available in all its anamorphic glory. You may a previous release of the movie, which was only made available in a standard format. Now, Fox has made the wrong thing right by remastering and reformatting the movie the way it was meant to be seen in.

Having said that, this is clearly the best and brightest form I've ever seen this movie in by far, mostly due to the fact that the only other times I've seen this movie has been that of video. The picture is incredibly sharp, give a speck or two of image softness. Colors appear at their most natural and original glory. In other words, it's exactly what fans of this movie have been waiting for.

Audio ****

If you want an idea of how good the movie's music will be rocking you, the 5.1 mix is a rockin' good indication. In addition, the sound mix also makes terrifically good use of other areas in the film, such as dialogue delivery and the range comes into play on several key set pieces in the Irish setting. But when the music numbers arrive, be sure to tune up your amp a bit, because the end result will be as if the band is playing for you personally.

Features ****

Once again, a much deserved shout out to the peeps at Fox for fine tuning this release into a full blown 2-disc Collector's Edition.

Disc 1 includes a full length commentary track with Alan Parker.

Disc 2 includes a huge playlist of extras. To start off, there's a retrospective documentary titled "The Commitments: Looking Back", which is sort of a Where-Are-They-Now-like feature. There is also a new featurette titled "Dublin Soul", as well as two additional behind the scenes featurettes, a music video for "Treat Her Right" with an introduction by Alan Parker and Robert Arkins, as well as two new songs, "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" and "Taking on the World". Lastly, there's a still gallery, a trailer and several TV and radio spots for the film.

Summary:

As Jimmy says in the movie, "Soul is the music people understand", and after finally getting to see The Commitments in this glorious new package, with terrific video and sound quality, the quote has never seemed clearer to me, as I'm sure it will seem to you after seeing this wonderfully enjoyable rock fable.