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John Singleton
Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, Angela Bassett, Tyra Ferrell, Lexie Bigham
Writing Credits:
John Singleton

Increase the peace.

Boyz N The Hood is the critically acclaimed story of three friends growing up in a South Central Los Angeles neighborhood, and of street life where friendship, pain, danger and love combine to form reality.

"The Hood" is a place where drive-by shootings and unemployment are rampant, but it is also a place where harmony coexists with adversity, especially for three young men growing up there: Doughboy (Ice Cube), an unambitious drug dealer; his brother Ricky (Morris Chestnut), a college-bound teenage father; and Ricky's best friend Tre (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), who aspires to a brighter future beyond "The Hood." In a world whereia trip to the store can end in death, the friends have diverse reactions to their bleak surroundings. Tre's resolve is strengthened by a strong father (Laurence Fishburne) who keeps him on the right track. But the lessons Tre learns are put to the ultimate test when tragedy strikes close to home, and violence seems like the only recourse.

Box Office:
$6 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.000 million.
Domestic Gross
$57.504 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Spanish Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $27.94
Release Date: 9/2/2003

Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director John Singleton
Disc Two
• “Friendly Fire: Making of an Urban Legend” Documentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Music Videos
• Trailers
• Filmographies

• Booklet

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Boyz N The Hood: Anniversary Edition (1991)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 12, 2003)

1991’s Boyz N the Hood launched the careers of more than a few participants, many of whom still struggle to live up to its legacy today. Five years later, actor Cuba Gooding Jr. went on to win an Oscar for his role in Jerry Maguire, but recent efforts have placed him in dreck such as Boat Trip. Director John Singleton made a real splash with his first feature but also failed to live up to its success, at least in critical terms. Other flicks like 2 Fast, 2 Furious earned a lot more money but didn’t equal the respect accorded Boyz.

12 years after it hit, I must admit I found it hard to understand why Boyz generated such positive buzz. The flick opens in South Central Los Angeles circa 1984. We meet 10-year-old Tre Styles (Desi Arnez Hines, II), an intelligent child with a bad attitude. He frequently lands in trouble at school, so his single mother Reva (Angela Bassett) sends him to live with his father Furious (Larry Fishburne) after another outburst.

In Furious’ neighborhood, we meet the kids who will be Tre’s lifelong friends: pudgy Dougboy (Baha Jackson) and his athletic brother Ricky (Donovan McCrary) plus jheri-curled Chris (Kenneth A. Brown). Doughboy’s mother (Tyra Ferrell) treats him like dirt but clearly adores Ricky.

Quickly Boyz introduces us to the harsh realities of this area. Furious almost kills an intruder during Tre’s first night, and the boys take a short trip to see a dead body. At that time, they encounter some older teens who confront them nastily and set up a rivalry that will play a role later in the movie. The 1984 segments end on a down note, as Doughboy and Chris get arrested for stealing.

Set seven years later, the modern segments open with Doughboy’s (Ice Cube) return from jail, as we learn that he’s been in and out of the can over that span. We also discover that Chris (Regi Green) ended up in a wheelchair due to violence. In addition, although he became a star high school football player and he entertains hopes of a scholarship to USC, Ricky (Morris Chestnut) had a baby with Shanice (Alysia M. Rogers).

Only Tre (Gooding) emerges relatively unscathed over the years. He still lives with Furious and works at a mall clothes store in addition to high school. He also entertains a semi-relationship with neighborhood hottie Brandi (Nia Long) but he handles the situation poorly; Tre pressures her for sex and ignores her because she refuses.

Boyz doesn’t present a strict plot but mostly follows the course of the characters’ lives. Though he talks about straightening up, Doughboy still runs in a bad crowd and seems to invite violence. Ricky worries about getting the required 700 on the SAT so he can attend USC. Tre mostly deals with Brandi and his father’s attempts to make him a man. All of this leads inexorably toward a Big Event that will change all their lives.

That was one of my main problems with Boyz: it often felt so firmly focused on demonstrating specific ideas and events that it lost track of its characters and reality. Much of the film’s praise related to the gritty way in which it depicted South Central LA life. Indeed, Singleton makes it look like an unpleasant place in which to live, with violent cops, thugs everywhere, drug-addicted mothers who neglect their children, and a general sense of threat.

However, the movie frequently favors melodrama over reality. At times it feels like Singleton utilizes the rough setting as little more than the launching pad for civics lessons. He starts the film with some absurdly obvious imagery: we hear the sounds of violence and read some text statistics about violence against and among African-Americans, and then the camera tightly focuses on a stop sign. This doesn’t exactly seem subtle, and Singleton follows this with many other examples of elements that leave nothing to the imagination.

These occasionally make Boyz come across more as an essay about the problems that face black America than a movie. At one point, Furious takes Tre to an even rougher neighborhood than their own, all so he can deliver a lecture. This integrates into the movie poorly and makes it grind to a halt. Boyz forces so many of its points on us in this manner that it loses any effectiveness as turns into a screechy treatise instead of an affecting story.

In addition, the characters often feel more like broad concepts than people. They get stuck with bad lines of exposition. For example, early in the film we can easily tell that their mother clearly adores Ricky and loathes Doughboy, and the flick simply sticks in the information that they have different fathers. I guess that’s not enough, as we later hear a character blatantly tell us this information. This element fits into the movie poorly and feels like what it is: artificial exposition.

Boyz works best when it stays with slice of life moments and Singleton avoids an agenda. Those lend it a sense of reality and actually allow its characters to develop beyond the level of one-dimensional stereotypes. Unfortunately, these occur infrequently, as the movie becomes much more concerned with making sure we get a lesson.

At times, Boyz N the Hood manages some power, and I can’t deny the influential nature of the flick, as it helped open some doors for minority filmmakers. Unfortunately, it seems like a better idea than a movie. Director John Singleton is so concerned with telling us opinions such as the alleged cultural bias of the SAT that he forgets to develop believable characters and compelling situations. Even when his points are valid, he executes them in such a ham-fisted manner that they harm the film. Boyz has its moments but generally fails to succeed as a movie.

The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus B+

Boyz N the Hood appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Though somewhat flat at times, Hood generally looked decent.

Sharpness presented no discernible concerns. Wide shots were a little tentative at times, but not to a significant degree. For the most part, the movie remained nicely detailed and distinctive. I saw no issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering, but some light edge enhancement occurred during much of the movie. Print flaws stayed fairly modest. Some shots looked a bit too grainy, and I saw the occasional speck or bit of grit. However, these didn’t cause any real problems, as the majority of the movie stayed clean.

Colors looked fairly natural, though slightly dense. The tones were a bit heavy at times and didn’t seem as firm or rich as I’d like. Still, most of the tones were appropriately displayed and concise. Black levels also seemed reasonably deep, though they occasionally looked a little murky. Shadows were usually acceptably visible, with only some small issues connected to excessive opacity. Ultimately, despite these small issues, Hood offered a positive image.

The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Boyz N the Hood seemed serviceable but not much more than that. The forward spectrum dominated and presented the most life from the mix. Usually this meant decent stereo imaging from the music and general ambience from effects. The latter demonstrated acceptable movement and involvement but rarely elevated above that level. The motion of helicopters across the front worked best in this regard. The surrounds contributed light reinforcement to the piece and that was about it. Nothing much occurred in the rears, as the track stayed lackluster from start to finish.

Audio quality seemed similarly decent but unspectacular. Though intelligible and listenable, speech was somewhat flat and bland. More than a few lines displayed a bit of edginess, though most of the dialogue was reasonably natural. Effects also seemed a little thin, but they usually came across as acceptably accurate. Music fared best, as the score and various songs showed pretty good range and detail. Low-end response was particularly solid, as bass seemed tight and warm. Overall, the audio of Hood worked fine for the material, but it never went beyond that.

For this new two-disc special edition of Boyz N the Hood, we get a decent array of supplements. On DVD One we open with an audio commentary from director John Singleton, who offers a running, screen-specific piece. During past discussions, Singleton often came across as full of himself and self-congratulatory. Those issues remain happily insignificant here, as Singleton provides an informative and fairly warm examination of his first film.

Recorded in the late Nineties, Singleton clearly possesses a lot of affection for his Boyz experience, and that comes through here. The film’s first act presents the best moments. Singleton chats about the project’s roots, issues related to getting it off the ground, and the many autobiographical elements. We get a great impression of what led to the movie and various challenges he faced as a first-time director. Once the flick jumps to the then-modern-day characters, Singleton proves less compelling, but he still gives us a nice feel for the production and various elements of the movie. At times the piece sags, but overall, Singleton tells us a lot of valuable information and offers a reasonably good commentary.

When we move to DVD Two, we launch with a documentary called Friendly Fire: Making of an Urban Legend. The 43-minute and 13-second program mixes movie bits, stills and material from the set, and interviews. We hear from Singleton, former Columbia creative executive Stephanie Allain, former Columbia VP of Publicity Mark Gill, LA Times journalist Patrick Goldstein, producer Steve Nicolaides, casting director Jaki Brown-Karman, cinematographer Charles Mills, and actors Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Regina King, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, Desi Arnez Hines II, and Darius McCreary.

The piece goes through the origins of the film, how it worked through the studio ranks, launching the production and casting, improvs and acting exercises on the set, actually making the film, Fishburne’s influence on all the young actors, gang threats, reactions to the movie, various controversies and the flick’s impact and legacy. Those last two topics receive much more attention than usual, as they fill about the last third of the documentary. Given Boyz’s history, that makes sense, and “Fire” presents a very good examination of the flick. It goes through all the “making of” subjects concisely and logically and doesn’t shy away from negative issues. We get a good feel for its creation and its impact.

Next we find two deleted scenes. “Trey Discusses His Future With His Mom” runs three minutes, 37 seconds, while “Furious Confronts Doughboy After Ricky Is Shot” goes for 45 seconds. Neither seems great, though at least “Future” helps flesh out the under-portrayed Bassett character.

After this we locate two music videos: “Growin’ Up in the Hood” by Compton’s Most Wanted and “Just Ask Me To” from Tevin Campbell. Both liberally mix movie clips with lip-synch performances. Neither of them comes across as particularly strong, though neither seems bad, even with the absurdly dated fashions in the Campbell video.

We get filmographies for director/writer Singleton plus actors Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Ice Cube, Angela Bassett, Regina King and Nia Long. Trailers includes ads for Boyz as well as Bad Boys II, Blue Streak, Money Train, National Security, and Singleton’s Poetic Justice, Higher Learning, and Baby Boy. Lastly, the package’s booklet presents a few basic production notes.

Undeniably influential and important, Boyz N the Hood runs into problems when viewed strictly as a movie. It occasionally presents some insights and quality moments, but these become submerged by cheap melodrama and awkward sermonizing. The DVD offers decent but fairly average picture and audio plus a small roster of extras highlighted by a good commentary and a fairly rich documentary. Boyz fans will want to grab this set, but I can’t recommend the choppy movie otherwise.

Footnote: this package comes with the title of “Anniversary Edition”. Which anniversary is that? The movie came out 12 years ago, and that seems like an odd number to celebrate. Though the commentary and documentary clearly were created no later than 2001, the trailers and filmographies reflect recent materials, so I can’t accuse Columbia of making these discs two years ago and leaving them on the shelf until now. Maybe they just printed up the sleeves then and didn’t want to invest in new ones.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2291 Stars Number of Votes: 48
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