Dave Chappelle's Block Party Unrated Edition
R1 - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and Cameron Murray (4th July 2006).
The Film

With this DVD you have the option of watching the complete ‘Unrated Version’ of the film or you can view an 'Unrated Version' that includes around 6 minutes of extended musical performances.

Dave Chappelle‘s Block Party is a thoroughly enjoyable Documentary/ Comedy/ Music Concert. Hosted by Dave Chappelle and featuring guests such as Mos Def, Common, Jill Scott and The Fugees (who performed together for the first time in seven years for this film) this movie is a great reminder that music can be a very powerful vehicle for a message or a cause.
The Documentary starts at the beginning of the Block Party, it then reverts back to three days previous with Chappelle in his home town in the state of Ohio where he is getting members of the predominantly white population to come up to Brooklyn to go to his ‘rap concert’ block party. It follows the progress of Chappelle as he decides that he wants a marching band to be at his shin dig. It then takes a tour of the area where the concert is to be held and meets some of the more interesting members of the neighborhood including a couple who are most succinctly summed up by the term ‘crazy’ but very friendly and welcoming as they show Dave through one of the strangest buildings that I have ever seen on film, whether it be fiction or not. The film moves onto the concert with Dave speaking to some of the artists that he has recruited for his concert, clips from the concert and rehearsal sessions are interspersed through the entire film, climaxing with the reunited performance by The Fugees, which is absolutely mind blowing.
Dave Chappelle is the host of this block party (I know the title kind of gives that away) he is also the host of the documentary. As a comedian Chappelle keeps the humor coming but without trying or forcing it, the viewer can only assume he is being himself and as such you feel endeared to him. Throughout the film there are many compliments paid to Chappelle by the members of the public from his home town, whom have been invited to the block party. It was refreshing to watch a documentary that apparently didn’t have a secret agenda or underhanded editing techniques to twist people’s words. The other members of the ‘cast’ are the artists and the random members of the public who Dave convinces to come from his home town, there are some real characters amongst them and some people who you would not really expect to see at a rap concert, but through Chappelle’s charm are convinced to make the journey.
This film is a mixture between the standard documentary style and a live hip hop concert film style, meaning that there are very few static shots, with the majority of the interview segments being shot off the shoulder. The concert is filmed on the fly and thus the quality of these segments are a tribute to the camera crew being on their toes and getting as much as they possibly could and doing a damn good job of it in the process. The film does not take a revolutionary approach to its relevant genres but the style it uses is conducive to telling the story.
I liked this film, but it is not a stunning documentary simply because it doesn’t really tell a great story. It just follows Chappelle through the process of pulling off his Block party, and while there are some really interesting points that peak your interest they don’t delve any deeper into them, so in that regard it is a little disappointing. Having said that the performances are stunning and the artists let the viewers know that despite what you see in the mass media there are artists out there who are real people with real concerns for the world in which they live in. This is a refreshing approach given the over abundance of pre packaged bulls**t that seems to make it to the top of the charts week after week. If you like hip hop, rap or just music with a message I highly recommend this film, if you want a hard hitting documentary on rap music this is not for you, if you want to see a very funny man putting on a great concert for people, most of whom he has never met before and has asked nothing from them except there attendance then this is the movie for you.

Video

Presented in the film’s original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 this anamorphic transfer isn’t going to blow anyone away, but is more than adequate for this film. The image is generally sharp and free from most flaws; however I did notice that the colors were not as vibrant as I’d expect them to be. Blacks are a little flat, especially in the night scenes, some minor edge-enhancement was detected and minor pixilation throughout the transfer, which can be distracting if viewing the film on a large format screen, otherwise it should hold up quite well.

Audio

This film includes only one soundtrack, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. The dialogue is clear and distortion free, there is little by way to atmospheric or directional surrounds, but in the context of this film it doesn’t require too much tinkering with the background sounds. The track kicks into overdrive with the musical performances, which is the highlight of this soundtrack.
Optional subtitles are also included in English for the hearing impaired, French & Spanish.

Extras

First up we have "September in Brooklyn: Making of Block Party" featurette which runs for 28 minutes 9 seconds. This clip goes beyond what a standard EPK featurette does, it’s shot in very much the same way the film is with behind-the-scenes fly-on-the-wall camera work inter-cut with interviews with the key players. The clip follows the evolution of the project to the involvement of the musical acts and the undertaking of the party and its filming. We follow Chappelle and director Gondry as they convince the acts to come onboard, the logistics of pulling off the event, the choice of Brooklyn as the ultimate location, the choice of shooting this much like a documentary and of course covers the reunion of The Fugees and how close it came to not happening. This featurette covers a lot in its short time and makes a welcomed addition to this DVD.

Next up is the "Ohio Players:" featurette which runs for 18 minutes 41 seconds and follows Chappelle while in Ohio recruiting local townspeople for the weekend party in New York as well as getting a marching band to perform at the block party.

Rounding out the extras are start-up trailers, which play before the menu and can be skipped by pressing the ‘menu’ button on your remote:
- Something New which runs for 32 seconds.
- Waist Deep which runs for 2 minutes 13 seconds.
- Slither which runs for 30 seconds.
- Saturday Night Live: The Best Of which runs for 1 minute.
- Bring It On: All Or Nothing which runs for 1 minute 37 seconds.

There is also a single page of text advertising the Soundtrack on this disc.

Aside from the two interesting and very worthwhile featurettes I was incredibly under whelmed with the amount of extras on this disc, I would love to have seen some deleted scenes and outtakes as they had 9 cameras covering the event so there would be a massive amount of additional footage floating around and a commentary would also have been nice touch, alas we don’t get any of that.

Overall

The Film: B Video: B- Audio: B+ Extras: C- Overall: B

 


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