The Singing Detective Blu-ray Review
The late 90’s and early 2000’s were a rough time for Robert Downey Jr. His battles with addiction are well chronicled and those of us that have followed his career kept waiting for that breakout movie that would establish him as an A-list star and give him the motivation to get and stay clean. In 2003, I thought that movie was going to be THE SINGING DETECTIVE. He had just gotten out of his post ‘Ally McBeal’ rehab stint and this was his first leading man role in a few years. With a great premise and a good supporting cast, I was convinced this was the start of RDJ’s Hollywood dominance. Unfortunately, I was wrong and THE SINGING DETECTIVE not only didn’t work, but very few people saw it and it eventually died a quick death. I was excited to revisit it 12 years later in hopes I might have missed something the first time around, but I found myself disappointed all over again.
The film follows writer Dan Dark (Downey Jr.) as he’s confined to a hospital bed with a debilitating skin disease. But the illness causes him to get confused between what’s real and what’s going on in one of his Singing Detective novels and so the film transitions between the two worlds. The problem is that neither world is well developed and the audience loses interest because nothing is really happening. The detective world had the potential to be great because it consists of a lot of musical numbers, but the numbers are lip-synced over the original oldies, making everything feel cheap and lazy. Adding some actual musical numbers into the film would have done wonders, but even with some real music, the detective plotline would have struggled. There was a mystery of sorts that Dark was trying to solve, but it was very poorly developed and eventually abandoned completely.
The hospital scenes don’t fare much better. Dark is very angry and paranoid, but we never know why. The hospital reality starts to get blurred with the detective world, but it’s very clunky and haphazard. The audience starts to question what’s real and what’s not, but we don’t actually care because there’s no real danger to speak of. We also get a subplot where Dark is remembering his horrible childhood, but again, it doesn’t fit into the rest of the film very well and it just creates another reality that’s not fully explored. The film desperately needed a reality check and would have been better served fully developing the singing detective storyline with an actual story and some musical numbers and coming back to the hospital, maybe only for the scenes with Dark and Dr. Gibbon (Gibson).
Despite the numerous problems with THE SINGING DETECTIVE, one thing that stands out is the incredible performance from Robert Downey Jr. It’s a little wasted, but fans of his should give the film a shot just to see him carry the film. He’s asked to do a lot here and he makes it look very natural, which is saying something considering the issues going against the movie.
Video: Given its age, THE SINGING DETECTIVE looks pretty good on Blu-ray.
Audio: The audio was also fine.