Blue Like Jazz Blu-ray Review
There are few subjects more polarizing than religion. Trying to convey some sort of deep and profound life message within a creative field like music or film is difficult enough, but then cast in some overtones from any of the “good books” and you can immediately cue the tire-peeling sound effect for half the room. The problem is the direct or subliminal sales like tactics that most religious stories employ. The consummate and ironic mistake usually made is “preaching to the choir,” focusing in on the agreed upon moral values of the religion in question and subsequently alienating those with opposing views. Refreshingly, with BLUE LIKE JAZZ, director/writer Steve Taylor takes a face-value approach with his adaption of the book subtitled “Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality” by Donald Miller, and finally delivers the Christian film us Pagans have been clamoring for.
Donald Miller (Marshall Allman, TRUE BLOOD) is a devoted Christian living in his home state of Texas and plans to attend a Christian college, which according to his estranged father, is devoid of any ability to help Donald grow as a person. After discovering a dark secret kept by his clinging mother and youth pastor at his church, Donald decides to take his father up on the favor of enrolling him in what may be the most liberal college in America.
Where BLUE LIKE JAZZ breaks the holy mold, is in its honesty. It’s actually ok for a teenager to have serious concerns about his religion, even a devout Southern Baptist. Donald’s journey into self-realization does not come at the expense of the audience having to sit through an infomercial on God. The story in this film keeps the debate on religion open and fluid using strong characters whose arcs always remain at the center of the plot.
The pacing does tend to drag with a script that is a bit long winded in trying to communicate what in the end is a very simple concept of staying true to oneself. Purposefully though, the very humorous and extreme portrayals of odd church ceremonies and the ultra-liberal university Reed College, which is a red meat assault on a vegan protest away from being Port Chester University in the 1994 film PCU, are necessary in a film of this ilk purely for the sake of entertainment. A film can have all the pure honesty, strong acting and even underlying messages one can handle, but boring is not something a moviegoer of any cloth should put up with.
Critiquing Christian-based films is usually not a worthwhile endeavor. It’s like being upset that the room at the $39.95/night motel has roaches and the maid didn’t leave a mint on your pillow. And even though BLUE LIKE JAZZ definitely has its flaws, it’s of greater importance to focus on what this film does well and why other filmmakers in the genre should take notice if they ever truly desire for people outside of the generally prescribed “Christian” lifestyle to take their messages seriously.
Video: 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, 1080p MPEG-4 codec: The video in this film is nothing special but it’s not noticeably dreadful either. The contrast is good throughout but there is some noticeable banding during indoor shots.
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1: Not much need for superior audio when pure dialogue is the cornerstone of the film. Voices are crisp and clear, however when music is present there were moments when the mix was a little lopsided.
Commentary with author Donald Miller, Cinematographer Ben Pearson and Director Steve Taylor: Not exactly a nominee for the commentary tracks Hall of Fame here. The trio is very honest about not having much experience at this and pretty much exemplify it throughout. There are a lot of awkward pauses and joking around to fill them, while they try and think of something interesting to say next.
Making ‘Blue Like Jazz’ (12 min.): Hosted by author Donald Miller who talks about his book and why BLUE LIKE JAZZ is different from other films about Christianity. Definitely worth a watch to get insight on the book that inspired the film.
“The Music” Featurette (6 min.): A very entertaining feature on the music in the film but not because of the music at all. Composer Danny Seim, who has probably watched a few of these features before, decided to make fun of the entire process of putting the music for the film together by walking around his living room in a daze with his dog and overemphasizing the importance of his instruments.
“Save Blue Like Jazz” Featurette (3 min.): Showcasing the incredible and unprecedented campaign to save the film on Kickstarter.com, where they raised the money needed to get the film produced.
“The Animator” Featurette (1 min.): An absolutely pointless minute from the animator that has nothing to do with the very impressive animation used in the film.
“This is My Story” Featurette (3 min.): Testimonials from different people about their life and experiences with the book.
Deleted Shots: A humorous take on Deleted Scenes. Mostly close-ups of still life while the explanation for the deletion of the shot appears on screen.
Master Class: Directing Actors on Set (3 min): A parody from director Steve Taylor on the usual feature where he dubs in comedic lines into behind the scene videos.