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Life Is Beautiful (La Vita é Bella)

review by Zach B.


Rated PG-13

Studio: Disney

Starring Robert Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Written by Vincenzo Cerami and Roberto Benigni

Directed by Roberto Benigni


Retail Price: 39.99

Features: "Making Life Beautiful" Featurette, TV Spots, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen, 5.1 Dolby Digital English, 5.1 Dolby Digital Italian, English Captions, Chapter Search

Making about 60 million dollars at the box office, "Life Is Beautiful" is the most successful foreign film (in the United States, of course) of all time. Indeed it is an art house movie, not something that most audiences will have knowledge of or put up with. Yet rave reviews poured in, and it all caught on, making this film highly popular and Roberto Benigni a household name.

I saw "Life Is Beautiful" long before it got popular. I saw a trailer for the film, and it looked interesting, and I ended up seeing it and giving a good hearty review to everyone I knew. Yet soon nominations came in for awards and all, and the hype on this film began for awards and such.

Benigini, known for such classic Italian films such as "Johnny Stechinno", co-wrote, directed and starred in this movie, which shows a father's love for his son. The film was criticized for the whole Holocaust setting, but this is what makes the movie work. Anyhow, if you don't know the story, the film is basically divided into two parts. We first meet Guido, a man, with his friend who moves into town while staying at his uncle's house. He meets a beautiful girl who he keeps bumping into (literally), but she's engaged to someone else, who she doesn't like. Guido rescues her and wins her heart, and they have a son a few years later. However, Nazis have invaded, and Guido and his son are sent to a concentration camp. Guido's wife, though not Jewish, asks to be sent as well. Guido, who loves his son and family very much, creates a game. They need to earn points to win. This protects his son from the truth, and makes things fun... for his son at least.

"Life Is Beautiful" is a film not about the Holocaust, but more about family, and as I said, the father's love for his son. Though I like the film, I felt at times it did drag on and that after all the hype, it was really over-rated. Still, if you've never seen the movie, I encourage you to check it out. It's a unique and excellent foreign film. The DVD release, however, is a bit disappointing.


A nice non-anamorphic transfer by Disney. Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, Life is Beautiful features nice detail and good use colors. However, there is some unsaturation at points, as well as a few artifacts. Things at times appear faded. Still, it's a pretty good transfer.

Life Is Beautiful has a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in Italian or English. The film has a beautiful score, and thankfully, is brought to full life here with additional channels. Dialogue is clear, and even though the film is dialogue driven, there are some loud sounds. The loud sounds could have sounded better for what they are, but they are fine. The English, I don't suggest you watch, but rather see the film it was meant to be. The English version, which I hardly watched, has a horrible dubbing job which I can't stand. The only reason an English dub was created because Disney wanted to make more money off the film. The dub was released in only a couple of theaters, and they wanted to expand it if it was succesful, but luckily, it was not. They felt they could have reached more of an audience for people who don't like subtitles or can't stand reading. Heh. But it's there if you really, really want to see it.

Disney makes us wait a little after the year's theatrical release for a "Miramax Collector's Series". This disc doesn't live up to the title at all. My guess is that since it's such a high profile film, they wanted the appearence to be special. Anyhow, there is some stuff...

First off, there is a half hour featurette entitled "Making Life Beautiful". It's strictly promo fluff, and is good for a watch once.

Next, there is the Theatrical Trailer. This was the one which made me want to see the film in the first place, and it is a good trailer I guess.

Finally, all the TV Spots can be found on the disc. They are all in a big clump, not highly organized like in the menus of Good Will Hunting: Collector's Series. Still, they are there in case you want to relive them again.

While the movie is good, this DVD isn't as good as it could have been. For a steep 39.99 retail price, the picture and sound is nice, but the lack of features make it a little of a toss-up.


(4/5, NOT included in final score)




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