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Musicals Rock Out on DVD

29 Dec, 2007 By: Billy Gil

Julie Taymor

The musical has been a film staple since its inception, but its popularity has waxed and waned. Led by such films as Moulin Rouge and Chicago, the medium's popularity has picked up in recent years.

New Line Home Entertainment's Hairspray has shown strong sales legs on Nielsen VideoScan's sales charts. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment's High School Musical and its sequel are sales monsters on DVD, and Paramount Home Entertainment/DreamWorks' Dreamgirls was both a critical and commercial smash.

Current theatricals mirror the trend with Paramount/DreamWorks' Sweeney Todd and Sony Pictures' Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

On DVD, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is next up with Across the Universe, hitting stores Feb. 5 (prebook Jan. 3) on a two-disc DVD ($28.96), Blu-ray Disc ($38.96) and UMD ($24.94).

The film was directed by Julie Taymor, who was nominated for an Oscar for Frida and won a Tony for The Lion King. Her film, guided by an indelible set of Beatles tunes, depicts the lives of six young people in the 1960s as they find their way through such era-specific happenings as the antiwar movement, the civil rights movement, women's liberation and the proliferation of recreational drug use. The film stars Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, Evan Rachel Wood, Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther McCoy and T.V. Carpio.

“At first just the characters of Jude, Max and Lucy existed, but not the other characters, and it was set during the '60s but was more about the parents' relationship with their children,” Taymor said about helping develop the concept with writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. “It really didn't probe other sides of the '60s, such as [the Civil Rights movement] and all the other things that were inspirational to the songs the Beatles wrote.”

Taymor said that to a degree, the characters were inspired by the songs.

The film features 34 songs written by the Beatles, from Sturgess singing “Girl,” to “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” with U2's Bono providing backup vocals, that plays as the closing credits roll. The film also has song-and-dance numbers inspired by 1960s psychedelic music and artwork.

“The clarity and the vividness of the colors is really, really amazing … it will be a real treat to see it on Blu-ray,” Taymor said. “Also, the fact that the music doesn't have to get compressed [on Blu-ray is beneficial].”

The DVD and Blu-ray Disc include extended musical performances, a deleted scene with the song “And I Love Her” as performed by Fuchs and McCoy (who previously were not actors but rather a trained singer and guitarist, respectively), commentary from Taymor and composer Elliot Goldenthal, and five featurettes on the film's creation, cast, music, special effects and choreography.

The Blu-ray Disc features artwork by Don Nance, which is interspersed in the film to represent the character Jude's artwork, while the DVD exclusively includes a photo gallery with more than 100 images from the film.

More Musicals

A select list of musicals or music-themed films on DVD:

  • Once – Fox. 2006. Starring Glen Hansard and Mark?ta Irglová. Available now. DVD $29.99.

  • Johnny Suede – Starz. 1991. Starring Brad Pitt and Catherine Keener. Streeting 1/15. DVD $19.98.

  • Feel the Noise – Sony Pictures. 2007. Starring Omarion Grandberry. Streeting 1/29. DVD $26.96.

  • Rock & Rule – TLA. 1983. Starring Don Francks. Streeting 2/19. DVD $14.99.

  • Walk the Line (Extended Cut) – Fox. 2005. Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Streeting 3/25. DVD $26.98.

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