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Baby Boy
Special Edition

review by Zach B.

 

Rated: R (Strong sexuality, language, violence and some drug use)

Running Time: 130 minutes

Starring: Tyrese Gibson, Snoop Dogg, Ving Rhames, A.J. Johnson, Omar Gooding, Taraji P. Henson

Written and Directed by: John Singleton

 

Studio: Columbia/Tri-Star

Retail Price: $26.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Writer/Director John Singleton, Cinemax Making-Of Special, Storyboard Comparisons, Deleted and Alternate Scenes, Outtakes and Bloopers, The Kiki & Boo Show, "Just A Baby Boy" Music Video, "Baby Mama" Music Video, Filmographies, TV Spots, Theatrical Trailers

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Chinese Subtitles, Korean Subtitles, Thai Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Chapter Selection (28 Chapters)

Released: November 6th, 2001

 

 

John Singleton, the youngest director to score an Oscar nod for Best Director for his first film, "Boyz N the Hood," has showed a great deal of promise in the past ten years. While I think "Boyz N the Hood" was a great film, I was disappointed with "Higher Learning," but pretty satisfied with the recent "Shaft," "Rosewood" and "Poetic Justice." Now, Singleton goes back to South Central and comes full circle, delivering his best film since "Boyz," that being, "Baby Boy."

"Baby Boy" follows Jody (Tyrse Gibson), a twenty-year old who lives with his Mom in South Central, Los Angeles. Jody is not married, has two different kids with two different women, and seems to be getting a hard time from a lot of people. Jody is a slacker somehwat, he knows what he has to do, but always looks for some easy way out it appears. Jody is a bit careless and needs to learn some more responsibilities. However, his Mom has a new boyfriend now (Ving Rhames) while Rodney (Snoop Dogg), an ex-con who is the ex-boyfriend of Jody's current girlfriend, Yvette. It's time for Jody to look around and stop being a "Baby Boy" to live his life the way he should.

"Baby Boy" is somewhat a companion film to "Boyz N the Hood," and it delivers. It has similarities, but Singleton makes it to it has a lot of different themes and a different approach to it which I respect. His new set of characters are great. Singleton has a great knack for dialogue, and really knows how to create tension and conflict, especially for young Jody. It's really great how he keeps things going and knows where to take things. I always wanted to know what happened next in the movie and the movie is even when divided up with the plotlines.

Singleton, as a director, accomplishes a lot too and we see that he's grown as a filmmaker. He has great flow to his script and the two hours go by rather fast. He has nice camera shots and editing. His story is really realistic and it works rather well. It's a nice deception of what could happen to someone. I'm sure we've all been in a place similar to Jody before where we had to learn to take responsibility. Sure our situations may not have been as complex or serious as Jody, but we've been in tough spots before where we have to be honest and have choices to make. We had to learn to grow up sometime, even if we didn't want to.

The performances are stellar. Singing star Tyrese Gibson has a surefire career ahead as an actor. He's perfect as Jody and I'm not sure if he'll be recognized for major awards, but he should be. He brings everything to Jody: what he has, what he needs, who he is and where to go, not to mention his vulnerbilitiy. We can see his temper rise, and how cool and quick witted he can be. Ving Rhames, a fabulous actor, is great as Jody's mother's boyfriend, Melvin. Melvin appreciate where he's at and what he's been through, and he's respective and strong. Rhames is strong in heart and soul with the character. Omar Gooding, Cuba's brother, is great in a smaller role while Snoop Dogg is pretty impressive as Rodney. A wonderful ensemble is here.

With a strong story and directing, great themes and messages, "Baby Boy" is a strong, character driven drama that makes us realize, makes us think and entertains us to the fullest bone. Superbly done.

 

 

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, "Baby Boy" looks pretty fantastic. There is some visible grain, as well as some artifacting, noise and shimmering during some scenes, but it does look pretty sharp on its own merit. Color saturation and fleshtones look really nice and realistic, bringing a very nice look to the South Central Los Angeles setting as some perspective of hues and colors used here. There's a blemish and piece of dirt here and there, but nothing major. I guess the artifacting and haloing in some parts bring it down, as I found it to be a bit distracting. It could have been a bit better with some touching up, but it's still great and nice to look at.

 

"Baby Boy" has a pretty strong 5.1 Dolby Digital English mix that works rather well. There's a strong balance to this, as nothing gets in the way of each sound. Dialogue is clear and crisp, while the sound effects and music sound quite good too.They don't get in the way of another. But there's a lot to this mix, which brings a good deal of surrounds to the table that are well mixed and really put you in the film, as you're watching this unfold right in front of your eyes. The more violent scenes bring a strong punch, while the rap and R&B music bring a sweet atmosphere to it all. .1 LFE is pretty cool too. Nicely done here. Also included are Dolby Surround mixes in English and French. You also get subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai plus English Closed Captions.

 

Whew, this is quite a nice special edition that fans of the film are sure going to get a lot out of. Most notable is the Audio Commentary with Writer/Director John Singleton. Singelton is notable, sincere and truly has a lot of passion for the film. He's very soft spoken and truthful. He talks about wanting to revisit South Central for a film, and talks about the characters, how he went about doing things and discussing how to really characterize certain elements of the movie. Singleton offers a good deal of praise for his cast and crew, and doesn't slow down. He just keeps going and going. Worth a listen for sure.

The Cinemax Making-Of Special is also included. Cinemax, I think, offers good featurettes on their network when shown, since Cinemax offers some good movie buff stuff (not just fun stuff late night!). It's a tiny bit promo, but not too much. There are film clips, behind the scenes footage and interviews with Singleton, Tyrese, Rhames and more. This featurette discusses the plot, the themes and more. Very cool.

Storyboard artist Warren Drummond is featured on the Storyboard Comparisons, where he talks about shots from certain scenes. Split screen style, we see the storyboards on the left, and actual film on the right. Drummond talks about what needed to be accompished and how to go about certain things in great detail. Pretty sweet.

Whoa! We have have fourteen Deleted and Alternate Scenes. No optional commentary from Singleton here sadly, but I guess we can see why they cut some of these out and toned them down (I'm guessing for time and pacing reasons). They're in non-anamorphic widescreen and feature timecodes. The scenes are "Love in the Afternoon," "Sweat Pea vs. Jody," "King of the Jungle," "The Mantras," "In The Park," "Back Then," "The Card Game," "Phone Calls," "'Do Not Go There!'," "'That's What I Know.'," "The Break-In," "Adam's Rib," "Cold Bubble" and "'Say 'Dip'." We also have some pretty funny Outtakes and Bloopers. These last a bit over six minutes. The Kiki & Boo Show was part of a deleted scene, and this features highlights of the show. It's a nice, fun addition lasting seven minutes, though I think you can see some of it during the background in one scene.

Music Videos for "Just A Baby Boy" by Snoop Dogg featuring Tyrese and Mr. Tan and "Baby Mama" by Three 6 Mafia are included. We also have some Filmographies, seven TV Spots and a few Theatrical Trailers. The trailers are for all Singleton movies: "Baby Boy," "Boyz N the Hood," "Higher Learning" and "Poetic Justice." Sweet.

 

Dramas don't get any better than Baby Boy, and John Singleton sure has mastered the urban African-American drama with interesting plotlines and strong characters. Filled with a great transfer, a good 5.1 mix and sweet extras, this is worth a rental if you've never seen it, but Singleton fans and fans of the film should rush out and get it.