Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 5/7/99
The Jazz Singer
1980 (1999) - Republic
Pictures (Artisan Entertainment)
review by Todd Doogan,
special to The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C-,
Specs and Features
111 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1 - listed as 4:3
widescreen on the case), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep
case packaging, song access, film-themed menu screens, scene access
(36 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none, Closed
"Love on the
rocks/Ain't no big surprise/Just pour me a drink/and I tell you some
My parents had the soundtrack tape for this flick in the family
car, and on long trips, my mother would be sure to pop the damn
thing in. To this day, I can't get the "today!" part of
(They're Coming To) America
out of my head.
This version of the The Jazz Singer
is a very loose adaptation of a successful Broadway play (done in
1925) that went on to become one of the first "talking pictures"
released in Hollywood. The original featured vaudevillian Al Jolson,
and was a huge success. The newest incarnation stars pop icon Neil
Diamond as Jess Robins (his stage name), a wannabe songwriter who
becomes a huge success at the cost of his family and his heritage.
You see, Jess is a strict Jew, and his father (played by Laurence
Olivier - "I haf no son!") wants him to continue the
family position of cantor. There wouldn't be a movie unless Jess had
bigger hopes and dreams -- so when an offer for him to supervise the
recording of his song Love On The Rocks
comes through, he leaves his wife, father and life behind to pursue
his dream. He finally achieves those dreams and becomes a success.
But at what cost when, everything important to him falls away?
Let's get this out of the way -- the movie is just okay. It's not
bad, it's not good -- it's something in-between. Maybe I remember it
so fondly, that it became a smooth piece of Velveeta cheese in my
mind's eye. I could break this film apart in so many ways, but what
for? It's fun to watch, even if it is cliché-ridden. It's
also neat to watch through new, older and more educated eyes. When I
was a kid, and knew nothing about vaudeville, the homage to the
original film blew right past me. Maybe you'll catch it -- you'll
have to see it to find out.
The disc is not very good, and I can't cut it any slack. The video
portion pretty much sucks. I don't think the digital compression and
authoring is at fault -- it looks more like the print they used. But
that's bad enough. The picture is faded and spotty, with really bad
color. There are no digital artifacts that I could see, but still it
looks like shit. Artisan didn't go out of their way to fix the
soundtrack either. You'd think they might remaster some of those
songs, and put a DD 5.1 soundtrack on this thing. Nope -- it's a 2.0
track and not a very good one at that. The one and only extra
included, is that you can skip instantly to each and every
individual song in the film. It's set-up like scene access -- you
highlight the song title and voila... you're there. Big whoop. Maybe
I'd be more excited if the songs sounded at least as good as my CD
-- but they don't.
Overall, I'd have to say that if you really want this disc, pick it
up. It is watchable and makes for an average DVD. The source
material is the problem here, but that problem looks like it could
have been fixed, so that's where the anger is coming from. Alas, you
don't have to see the movie to enjoy the cheese. Just go out and
pick up the soundtrack -- it's musical Alfredo.
THIS DISC IS CURRENTLY
OUT OF PRINT.