THE JAZZ SINGER
25th Anniversary Edition
Review by Michael Jacobson
Neil Diamond, Laurence Oliver, Lucie Arnaz, Catlin Adams, Franklyn Ajaye
Director: Richard Fleischer
Audio: Dolby Digital EX 6.1, DTS ES 6.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Features: See Review
Length: 116 Minutes
Release Date: October 18, 2005
have too much talent to waste it on music that doesn't mean anything."
means something to ME."
Jazz Singer is
either a good film with some flaws or a flawed film with some good moments...I'm
not sure which. I've seen it quite
a number of times in my life, so I guess it's fair to say I find things to like
about it. But this 25th anniversary
edition DVD shows the film has one issue that many of us share:
it hasn't aged well.
a kid who loved Neil Diamond, I was enthralled by the music and captivated by
the story of a talented man trying to make something more of his life than what
he was born into. Looking at the
movie with older eyes, I noticed things I never noticed before.
One, Diamond was probably too old to play a character struggling with
what can only be described as an adolescent crisis.
Two, the great Laurence Olivier delivered what had to be one of his most
thankless roles...it's hard to watch him and remember the man who brought Hamlet
and Henry V to life.
plays Yussel Rabinovitch, aka Jess Robin, a Jewish cantor in New York struggling
to get by doing what his family has always done.
He's supported by his meek traditionalist father (Olivier) and his
dutiful wife (Adams), but the music in him is burning a desire to try and do
gets his chance when his musical pal Bubba (Ajaye) plays his song "Love on
the Rocks" for a top recording star in Los Angeles.
There, he meets the plucky, pretty Molly (Arnaz), who instantly believes
in his talents and sets off to help him make his dream come true.
But none of this sets well with his family back on the other coast, who
want Jess to return to his religious life and follow God rather than his own
heart. This leads to a crisis of
identity for Jess and threatens to blow his biggest chance to date.
story is based on the same play that became the original talking film starring
Al Jolson, and in a kind of strange homage to that classic, there is even a
scene of Neil performing in blackface. It's
not quite as tasteless as it sound; the scene isn't there to have fun at the
expense of African Americans, but at the expense of Jess.
Though it's not as bad as it sounds, it's not quite as funny, either.
real treats of the movie are Neil's great songs and the heartwarming performance
by Arnaz. Diamond is passable as an
actor...there's nothing too demanding in the role, to be sure, but he delivers
the performance the film requires. But as a singer and songwriter, his talents are beyond
reproach. Some consider The Jazz
Singer's soundtrack to be his finest hour, and with songs like "Hello
Again", "America", "You Baby" and more, it's hard to
as far as screen presence goes, it's really Lucie Arnaz who's the star.
She's radiant, funny, and brings a wonderful sense of energy and romance
to Molly. I don't know why she
didn't go on to become one of Hollywood's biggest stars, and watching this film
again for the first time in many years, I still don't.
Fleischer, as director, does a serviceable job on a picture that was probably
nothing more or less than a showcase for Neil Diamond.
The story is familiar, the outcome is predictable, but I can't say the
movie isn't entertaining. I can be
critical of its faults, but then again, I always come back to it, and probably
one of Anchor Bay's better moments...the 25 year old movie looks every bit its
age. The anamorphic transfer is
plagued by grain, softness and muted colors.
Watchable, but far from exemplary.
are extended Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks included, and they mostly come to
life during the musical numbers. Diamond's
classic songs sound better than ever, and are delivered with punch and dynamic
range. The rest of the film is a
little thin sounding and doesn't offer much to impress.
an anniversary edition, this disc is a little on the light side.
There's a commentary with producer Jerry Leider (a decent trip down
memory lane), a trailer, a TV spot, a poster and stills gallery, and bios for
Diamond, Olivier and Fleischer.