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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - October, 2011

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"Life is Beautiful" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Jim Milton

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Synopsis

Benigni plays the Jewish country boy Guido, a madcap romantic in Mussolini's Italy who wins the heart of his sweetheart (Braschi) and raises a darling son in the shadow of fascism. When the Nazis ship the men off to a concentration camp in the waning days of the war, Guido is determined to shelter his son from the evils around them and convinces him they're in an elaborate contest to win (of all things) a tank. Guido tirelessly maintains the ruse with comic ingenuity, even as the horrors escalate and the camp's population continues to dwindle. Benigni walks a fine line mining comedy from tragedy and his efforts are pure fantasy, yet for all its wacky humor and inventive gags, Life Is Beautiful is a moving and poignant tale of one father's sacrifice to save not just his young son's life but his innocence in the face of one of the most evil acts ever perpetrated by the human race. This film won 7 Academy Awards, including Best Actor in 1998.

Specifications

  • Miramax
  • 2011, Color, Rated PG-13, 1 Hr 56 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Codec: AVC
  • 1080p
  • Italian 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, DD 5.1 with subtitiles
  • Starring Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi
  • Directed by Roberto Benigni
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Off screen
  • Sex: No
  • Language: Mild

Commentary

Life is Beautiful is a wonderfully inventive tale that seems fresh even today, years after its first release. Part slapstick, part drama, part romantic comedy, part tragedy - this story of an Italian family during the Holocaust defies categorization. Benigni is sort of a cross between Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton…yet, totally unique as a character. I always have advocated watching foreign films in the original language with subtitles, but I understand that some may not like "reading" a movie. I found the dubbed version to be too distracting, as Benigni provides the English track for his own character while English voices dub the rest of the cast. His Italian accent amid the English accents ruined the illusion. Still, if a dubbed version is the only way you'll watch this movie, just do it. The reward is still great. The ending could be seen as bittersweet, but I found it to have just the right poignancy that will leave you pondering this film long after it is over. This is a film worth viewing and illustrates that life is beautiful, indeed!

Technical

Though the overall picture is good, there are some scenes that suffer from buzzing film grain. Details are OK, but never as razor sharp as we have come to expect from blu-ray. The color red has a tendency to bleed and obscures the details in fabrics. Skin tones are natural, though Benigni's complexion seems more pale compared to others. In spite of these minor issues, the film is very entertaining. The sound is DD if you use subtitles, but it is still clear and provides plenty of ambiance. The original Italian track is DTS-HD-MA 5.1.

Extras

The extras are thin with only "the making of" Life is Beautiful and some theatrical trailers.The Hour (Blu-ray)