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review added: 5/17/00



Boyz N the Hood
1991 (1998) - Columbia TriStar

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Boyz N the Hood Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/C-

Specs and Features
112 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), double-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, 3 theatrical trailers (for Boyz N the Hood, Jerry Maguire and As Good As It Gets), film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English, Spanish and French (DD 2.0 surround), subtitles: English, Spanish, and French, Closed Captioned

Boyz N the Hood is a coming-of-age film, but you would never know that if you paid attention to the media surrounding the film's release. Despite its strong anti-violence stance, the media chose instead to focus on the gun shots and much-publicized drug and gang problems of South Central Los Angeles.

But it wasn't just the media that focused on the violence in the movie. The theatrical trailer used to promote Boyz N the Hood has more gunfire than dialogue, and flashy scenes of young black men leaning out of their cars with rifles are peppered throughout the two-minute promotional piece. My guess is that the promoters were thinking exactly like the American public to get people into the theaters. White America (and, to some extent, America in general) is more willing to watch a movie about young black men killing themselves than they are to watch a thought-provoking, truthful drama about young black men coming of age amid the difficult circumstances of the inner city.

In a stunning directorial debut, 21-year-old John Singleton tells the story of three childhood friends and the difficult life choices they are forced to make. The movie starts in 1984, with single mother Reva (Angela Bassett) struggling to raise her young son, Tre. As he enters his teen years, he starts to act out, so Reva sends him to live with his father Furious (Larry Fishburne), who can teach him things she can't. Seven years later, Tre (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is now a senior in high school, celebrating the release of his friend Doughboy (Ice Cube) from prison. Tre is also best friends with Doughboy's brother Ricky (Morris Chestnut), and they share the same desire to get out of South Central. Tre's ticket is his good grades and a strong will, and Ricky's is a football scholarship to USC. Doughboy has accepted his fate and makes no real attempt to overcome his circumstances. He instead chooses to pass his days playing video games and making small-time drug deals.

What makes Ice Cube's turn as Doughboy so remarkable and acute, is his overwhelming ambivalence toward his environment. While Ricky and Tre make the best of what they've got and put real effort into leaving, Doughboy chooses to believe what society and his mother tells him - that his life is worth nothing - and so he treats it as such.

If you boil it down to the basics, Boyz N the Hood is about hard choices and how they influence our lives. These choices become all the more disastrous when you realize that these boys have just begun to live their lives. So heartbreaking are the results of their decisions, that I defy anyone not to be moved by the movie's ending.

The DVD presentation of Boyz N the Hood is pretty nice, but it definitely has its problems. Given the attention it has received, and the awards it's garnered, I would like to have seen a better transfer. Right from the start, scratches are evident on the print (but they do begin to subside as the movie continues). There's also some edge enhancement at times and a slightly washed-out look to the film, resulting in somewhat weak color saturation. Black levels, however, remain strong and there's little grain visible, even in the more critical nighttime scenes.

The Dolby Surround audio tracks are adequate and nothing more. Bass is kind of shallow and the mix is just slightly on the tinny side. Use of the rear channels is sparse but well maintained, and the dialogue is balanced and audible. Overall, the mix gets the job done, but could be better. The Spanish and French language tracks are on the same level as the English, with sound more oriented to the front speakers.

John Singleton's commentary track and the deleted scenes that were included on the Criterion laserdisc release are absent from this DVD. Instead, there are three trailers as extras. The Boyz N the Hood theatrical trailer is full frame. We also get two more trailers for Cuba Gooding, Jr./Columbia films - Jerry Maguire and As Good As It Gets. That's it for the extras.

Boyz N the Hood is a powerful movie, that should be seen by everyone and can be appreciated by anyone. It may not be about your experiences growing up, but Singleton is able to draw such sympathy from his characters, and create a common level of hope, that you can easily understand their desire for more than what life has offered them. Boyz N the Hood is certainly not my story, but I knew people just like Doughboy, Ricky and Tre when I was growing up. It takes a gifted storyteller to translate a story like this for all audiences, and Singleton has done just that. The result is a truly powerful film.

Dan Kelly
dankelly@thedigitalbits.com




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