Title: Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
Rated: Not Rated
Screen format: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment / Rogue Pictures
Year first released: 2005
DVD released: June 13, 2006
Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Dave Chappelle, Kanye West, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Common, The Fugees, Dead Prez, Erikah Badu, Jill Scott, The Roots, Central State University Marching Band
Sound Formats: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Length: 1 hour 50 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Join Dave Chappelle and friends as they take over a block in Brooklyn, NY and put on a block party featuring some of today’s biggest names in hip hop. Right off the bat I have to admit to not knowing a lot about any of the performers featured, but that’s all right. The music here isn’t really the most interesting thing going on in this movie, and in fact the actual performances only take up about half the screen time. What this movie is in fact, all about is Dave both saying ‘Hey I’m ok, I’m not really nuts, I still know how to make people laugh, I still know how to have a good time, I know what I like in music and I’m not afraid to spend a ridiculous amount of money to make it happen', and 'hey I’m just a small town guy with small town friends and I can bring them along to show this other side of me too!’
There really is no plot to speak of here, things progress from a few days before the block party through the final performance. The plans for this movie and the block party itself seem to have been both carefully planned and then completely thrown together at the last minute. The attendees were bussed in from around NY, found out at the last minute through Chappelle message boards, or were invited and bussed in from Dave’s home town by his personal invitation. At the last possible minute Dave runs across a MARCHING BAND, and convinces them to drive 8 hours in the rain to attend and perform. It is the interaction with the Central State U. band and the kooks of the neighborhood that make up the rest of the film time. Woodstock this is not.
Sound Quality: 3/5
Again, I’m not a big fan of the style of music featured in this film, but I did enjoy a few of the performances, particularly Dead Prez, whom I had never heard of, and Kanye Wests’s “Jesus Walks” which I had heard in the Jarhead soundtrack. The others in the film seemed to pretty much all run together for me, although I am sure fans will think I am nuts. Looking past those performances, it seems that the Dolby Digital 5.1 is completely wasted here, with very little low end and zero surround workout. The concert sequences appear to have been pulled directly from the mixing board which is fine, but they often just felt a little flat. The dialogue from the non concert sequences was all clear, there just wasn’t anything noteworthy going on in the surround mix, ever.
Visual Quality: 3/5
If there is a villain to this movie, it is the rain. The day of the block party is a dreary drizzly day, and because of that the look of the movie is very dark and down. While that matches the section of Brooklyn that it takes place in, the visuals suffer for it. The performers seem to rise to the occasion and the crowd never seems to let it affect them however.
This movie appears to have been shot via high definition video and then transferred to film. Because of this, the shots are very sharp but the colors are not as deeply saturated as a true film would have been, and the poorly lit interiors and dreary day outside don’t help. The concert sequences are however very good, no complaints there. Some sequences appear to have been shot in a ‘night vision’ mode and they look a bit hokey. Besides those, grain was not evident nor was any major edge enhancement ever a factor.
Extra Features: 3.5/5
While there is a nice selection of bonus features on this disk, most of it is of questionable interest. Fans of the performers will enjoy seeing extended cuts and seeing those performers behind the scenes, but you have to wonder just how many people will dig watching the CSU band drive cross country to attend. There just isn’t any connection and no drama. There is an extensive featurette which details the making of the film, at it seems to confirm that much of it was kind of thrown together at the last minute and that the local residents are just plain crazy. While the packaging blares out ‘The unrated version you couldn’t see in theaters’ there doesn’t seem to be anything controversial or titillating at all.
Overall: 3/5 (not an average)
Fans of the genre are sure to dig this all star collection of hip hop performances, however those looking for a lot of Chappelle’s trademark antics aren’t likely to go away fully satisfied. It’s good to see Dave hasn’t gone into hiding and is willing to try something this high profile, however the execution just didn’t make it all that interesting unless you are the true fan of that kind of music. And before you criticize me, suggesting that I’m not the right person to review this movie because of my limited exposure, keep in mind that the whole principle of the film itself was for Dave to bring his love of hip-hop and his laid back rural neighbors together. While I’m two states away, it could have been MY neighborhood that Dave drove into Brooklyn to take part. And I really do empathize with those neighbors, it seems they were bewildered, and while they had a little fun and may have enjoyed the show, they went away wondering ‘What was I really supposed to get out of that???’