HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Birdcage
HTS Overall Score:70
Do anyone of you remember back when Robin Williams was funny? Yeah, it’s been a long time and it’s nice to go backwards in time 18 years to 1996 and see something that Robin Williams did that actually put a smile on your face. Robin mixes with a star studded cast that overacts and exaggerates everything to hysterical proportions in this classic comedy. I remember watching “The Birdcage” back in the late 90s on an old 25 inch tube TV (I was the baddest guy in college for having a massive 25 inch TV in our dorm) and laughing till my sides hurt. Over a decade later the movie can make me hit the floor just as fast with nonstop humor and a little bit of good old fashioned family squabbles to even out the mix. Based off of the old stage play "La Cage Aux Folles", “The Birdcage” is kind of a weird mixed up reverse “Guess who’s Coming to Dinner” with a dash of Eddie Izzard sprinkles on top. Funny, cute and imaginative it still is one of my favorite comedies, still just as hysterical in this day and age.
Armond Goldman (Robin Williams) is the owner of a drag club down in sunny Florida with his partner, Albert (Nathan Lane) as the star attraction. Little does his know that his world is about to be turned upside down as Armond’s son, Val (Dan Futterman) comes home with some shocking news. Val is about to be married to a lovely girl named Barbary Calista Flockhart) and wants his parents blessing. Albeit a little bit upset, Albert and Armond give their blessing to Val and then things really start to get sticky. It seems that Barbara’s father is a hyper right wing conservative senator who’s up for reelection, and with the upcoming nuptials Val and Barbara are terrified that Albert and Armond are going to throw a monkey wrench into the nuptials. It seems that Senator Keeley wants to come out and “meet the parents” and the impending explosion that is coming leaves our young couple running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out what to do.
Val and Armond agree that it’s probably best if they just “act normal” and try to play it off, which seems fine in theory, but with Albert just isn’t exactly the type to pull off that sort of acting job. As the guest are only hours away a frazzled Armond desperately tries to get Albert into character, Val is panicking like any 20 year old would and Albert is hamming up the scene with his diva personality.
Robin Williams is a classic comedic actor and loves to take center stage, but here he steps back a bit and allows some of the other talent to really shine. Williams is hysterical as always, but is the more subdued character here and Hank Azaria as the house boy literally brings down the house with his insane accent and over the top costumes. Gene Hackman and Diane West as the Keeley’s are pure gold. As director Mike Nichols loves painting his picture with sheer fantasy instead of reality. Every one of the characters is a ridiculous caricature of what the other side views the other. Senator Keeley is a brash and over the top character that is what every liberal dreams a Fox news listener is like and Albert and Hank Azaria literally steal the entire show with an over the top diva personality that can only come out of story book. Instead of spending a ton of time pointing fingers the viewers can revel in characters that are so ludicrous and over the top in an effort to show just how ludicrous we can actually be. The chemistry is electrifying as parties from both sides sizzle and sparkle with humor and awkwardness as the charade comes to an explosive finale (one that actually had me dying on the floor to see Gene Hackman disguised as a drag queen in order to elude the press that is hounding his every footsteps).
The film isn’t perfect, for the second act tends to be a bit duller than the 1st and 3rd act, although Armond teaching Albert to walk like John Wayne has to be one of the funniest scenes I have ever seen in a movie. As a rabid John Wayne fan Nathan Lane doing the Duke’s over the top swinging gate is just priceless. The 1st act is smart, funny and drives the story along, but the film really doesn’t pick up to full steam until it hits the looming confrontation of the families over dinner and the laughs really start firing on all cylinders.
Rated R for language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=20426[/img]Hmmmmm, the video is a bit of a mixed bag here. On the good side, the picture is left unmolested and seems to only have a minimal amount of digital manipulation. The downside is that it isn’t always the prettiest of pictures. There is a little DNR going on and the print looks like it was taken years ago. There’s some speckling going on and the image shifts from looking amazing in one scene, to very noticeably soft in the next. Even in the great looking scenes, the picture is just a tad soft. On the other hand colors are splendid and the garish outfits of Armond and Albert look phenomenal. Black level are actually quite good and I don’t have anything of real negativity to say about them, besides for the occasional bit of black crush.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=20418[/img]The audio fares a bit better. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track isn’t going to be a stunner, but it does the job very very nicely. It tends to be a bit flat and front heavy, especially considering the film is mostly dialogue. In that vein, the dialogue is clean and free of any distortions or volume discrepancies. Dynamic range is smooth and there is even some decent LFE moments during the club scenes. Surround usage is minimal, but definitely there as you can hear the crash and smashing of furniture in the background, the rush of Florida traffic and the musical score floods in quite nicely. Compared to it's DVD counterpart the Blu-ray definitely is a head and shoulders upgrade.
• Theatrical Trailer
Sharp, witty and full of humor “The Birdcage” is a terrific comedy that thrives on the awkward and the face palm worthy. That throw back to slapstick comedies of old and a modern twist work well together and the producers might have to press charges on Nathan Lane, for the man stole the entire show and left everyone else just clapping at his antics. The film is left unmolested, for the most part, but it’s not a wildly stunning disc for the visuals and audio. It’s a definite upgrade for fans of the movie and the old DVD doesn’t really compare, especially with that old 2.0 audio track. Definitely worth a watch at the very least.
Starring: Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Diane West, Gene Hackman
Directed by: Mike Nichols
Written by: Jean Poirot (play), Francis Veber (screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DD 5.1, Spanish DD 2.0, Japanese, Italian DTS 5.1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Runtime: 119 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 3rd, 2014
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