Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

The Commitments

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
8 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Robert Arkins as Jimmy Rabbitte
Michael Aherne as Steven Clifford, Piano
Angeline Ball as Imelda Quirke, Backup Singer
Maria Doyle Kennedy as Natalie Murphy, Backup Singer
Dave Finnegan as Mickah Wallace, Drums
Bronagh Gallagher as Bernie McGloughlin, Backup Singer
Félim Gormley as Dean Fay, Sax
Glen Hansard as Outspan Foster, Guitar
Dick Massey as Billy Mooney, Drums (quit)
Johnny Murphy as Joey 'The Lips' Fagan, Trumpet
Kenneth McCluskey as Derek Scully, Bass
Andrew Strong as Deco Cuffe
Colm Meaney as Jimmy Rabbitte, Sr.
Anne Kent as Mrs. Rabbitte
Andrea Corr as Sharon Rabbitte

Special Features:
Commentary by director Alan Parker

Theatrical trailers, TV spots

"The Making of The Commitments"

"The Commitments: Looking Back"

"Dublin Soul": the working class and changing face of Dublin

Making-of featurette

"Treat Her Right" music video with introduction by Alan Parker and Robert Arkins

Original songs by cast members: "Before the Next Tear Drop Falls" by Andrew Strong and "Taking On the World" by Robert Arkins

Still gallery

Other Info:
Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 118 Minutes

Synopsis:
This 1991 movie is now being released on this collector's edition DVD by 20th Century Fox. It is based on the novel by Roddy Doyle and is one in a series about the Rabbitte family.

Jimmy Rabbitte and his friends are young, working class kids living in Dublin, Ireland. Jimmy has a dream to manage a new band that plays soul. He begins to round up musical talent from around the city including a lead singer, backup singers, a pianist, a guitar player, and an aging trumpet player. Thus we follow the rise and fall of this young, talented band as they face all the pitfalls of stardom. From their early attempts to get started to their ultimate self-destruction, we are treated to a great mix of soul tunes from decades past.

The Commitments is rated R for language.

The Movie:
I have to admit that I didn't know about The Commitments and I didn't see it in theaters in 1991, but after seeing it on DVD I loved it. The thing I enjoyed most about the film was the soundtrack. I'm a big fan of soul and R&B, and that's the primary focus of the movie. The band plays such classics as Mustang Sally, Chain Of Fools, In The Midnight Hour, Take Me To The River, and more. Heard over your home theater sound system, this soundtrack rocks. I'm going to make a point to buy it next time I hit the music store. The classic sound also helps to give the movie a timeless quality about it. I couldn't tell that this movie was made in 1991.

The whole cast is a remarkable group of unknown musicians and singers. None of them had acted before The Commitments, yet director Alan Parker plucked them off of the Irish streets for his film. Most amazing of the group is the egotistical lead singer played by Andrew Strong. He has an incredible, soulful voice that really makes the songs sound great. Incredibly, Strong was only 16 when this movie was made yet he looks like he’s in his late 20's. I'm amazed Strong hasn’t had a bigger singing career after this film. He's awesome.

Robert Arkins is also great as the ever-optimistic, visionary manager Jimmy Rabbitte. He really puts the heart into the band and his passion for soul is quite convincing. Also memorable is Dave Finnegan as the scrappy, unpredictable Mickah Wallace on drums. His fights provide some real laughs in the movie. Also entertaining is Johnny Murphy as the religious and experienced Joey 'The Lips' Fagan. He provides the maturity that the band needs while at the same time seducing all of the backup singers. He's quite a baffling character. Star Trek veteran Colm Meaney is also hilarious as Jimmy's Elvis loving father. The rest of the cast all have their shining moments as well.

The movie is wickedly funny. There are all sorts of jokes about the rock bands. A scene where Jimmy interviews prospective band members and quizzes them about their influences sets the tone early. (A punk rocker replies, "Barry Manilow.") The traditional pitfalls of bands like egos, members sleeping together, money, etc. also provide lots of material for jokes. Alan Parker also masterfully shows all the stages of the development of the band. When they get together for the first time, they have all sorts of problems with the music, the sound, and the lyrics. Parker really shows them working to perfect their act.

The Dublin location is a unique backdrop for this story. The film could have really been set anywhere, but it's interesting to see how the soul music transcends boundaries and speaks to these Irish youths. Though their accents are occasionally hard to understand, all that goes out the window when they start singing classic tunes.

The only bad thing about the film is the language and sexual innuendo. It's all a bit excessive and gratuitous, even if it accurately depicts Irish youth. However, even that's not enough to overshadow the enjoyment of the music. I think the comedy and the soul outweigh everything else and make The Commitments a movie well worth checking out.

The Extras:
As one of 20th Century Fox's "Collector’s Edition" DVD's, there are quite a few extras included with the movie. Here are some of the highlights:

Commentary by director Alan Parker – Alan Parker offers up all sorts of information on locations the movie was filmed in and trivia about the actors and scenery. However, his voice is a bit soft spoken and monotone and could possibly lull you to sleep. I wish they had more of the cast for the commentary. Also, most of what Parker has to say can also be found in the "making of" documentaries.

"The Making of The Commitments" – This is your typical "making of" feature. It is a little over 20 minutes long and features a lot of vintage behind the scenes footage. There are interviews with the cast and crew, but director Alan Parker in the main focus of the feature. There's quite a bit of time spent on the writing of the screenplay, the casting for the roles, and the music. There's a bit of focus on Andrew Strong and how he has such a strong voice for a 16 year old. Overall, it's an interesting look at the movie.

"The Commitments: Looking Back" – Thirteen years after The Commitments hit the big screen, most of the cast and crew return for this retrospective on the film. The cast tell of memorable moments, the aftermath of the film, and what they've been doing since the movie came out. It's really interesting to see how their careers went on very different paths. It's also interesting to see how they've all aged.

"Dublin Soul": the working class and changing face of Dublin – Three of the original cast members host this look at Dublin and its working class areas. It's about 15 minutes long and an informative look at this culture.

Making-of featurette – This is a very brief promotional video that obviously was made to hype the movie before its release. Most of the footage from it is seen in the first documentary on the DVD, so there’s not a lot new here. Still, it's nice to have for completeness sake.

"Treat Her Right" music video with introduction by Alan Parker and Robert Arkins – I wasn't familiar with the title of this song, but I definitely knew its tune when I heard it. I think the music still appears in numerous movie trailers. In any case, this is a music video featuring the cast singing the song. In an interesting twist, the manager character played by Robert Arkins is the lead singer. As you learn in the extras, Arkins is quite an accomplished musician and singer though he doesn’t do any of that in the movie.

Original songs by cast members: "Before the Next Tear Drop Falls" by Andrew Strong and "Taking On the World" by Robert Arkins – Both Arkins and Strong have gone on to have solid music careers since making The Commitments and two of their latest songs are included on the DVD. I liked both songs, but Strong's is my favorite. It has a good R&B sound that is supported nicely by his strong voice. I'd pick up his latest CD if I could find it. Their songs are played with audio only while a movie still sits on the screen.

The Bottom Line:
The Commitments is a fun movie with a great soundtrack. It's definitely worth checking out.

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