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Michael Schultz
Sheila E., Joseph Simmons, Darry McDaniels, Jason Mizell, Mark Morales, Damon Winbley, Darren Robinson
Writing Credits:
Ralph Farquhar

It's chillin
Rated R.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Surround
English, French

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 1/14/2003

• Audio Commentary from Director Michael Schultz, Actor Blair Underwood and Source Magazine Senior Editor Brett Johnson
• “Tender Love Live with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis”
• “Krush Groovin’” Music Video
• Theatrical Trailer


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Krush Groove (1985)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (Janaury 6, 2003)

Virtually every genre of popular music eventually inspires a movie. Some work, such as A Hard Day’s Night. Most don’t, and into that category falls 1985’s rap epic Krush Groove.

At least Groove features more credibility when compared to the expected rap-sploitation film. A fictionalized take on the rise of pioneering rap mogul Russell Simmons, Groove focuses on Russell Walker (Blair Underwood), the head of Krush Groove Records. On the strength of hits by Run-DMC (played by themselves) and Kurtis Blow (himself), the vinyl literally sells faster than they can press the platters. Russell needs more money, so when both his father and a bank refuse his pleas for a loan, he goes to fur-selling loan shark Jay B. (Richard E. Gant) to get the bucks. Inevitably, this deal comes out poorly for Russell, who then needs to consider a sale of his artist roster to a big company.

For additional drama, Russell’s brother Run (played by himself) meets Sheila E. (herself), another aspiring performer. Run falls for sexy Sheila, but she doesn’t the affection, and Run turns sullen when he sees her with Russell. This creates a rift between the brothers and drives Run-DMC to a competing record label.

Another subplot follows the travails of the Disco Three, a high school rap trio portrayed by the Fat Boys. They spend the whole movie in pursuit of their own record contract, though their youth makes it tough for them to get in the door. Eventually they embrace their pudgy personalities, which allows them to experience an epiphany.

And that’s about it as far as the story goes. Krush Groove isn’t exactly heavy on plot, and much of the film feels like nothing more than an excuse for some musical numbers. For example, the Disco Three stumble upon a cafeteria largely so we can a) watch the tubby trio gorge themselves, and b) hear the Fat Boys’ “All You Can Eat”.

But the lack of story doesn’t cause the movies problems. Heck, A Hard Day’s Night enjoyed even less of a story but it remains a classic. Groove, on the other hand, feels like little more than a cheap cash-in on a musical craze.

On one hand, as someone who liked rap back in its formative years, it’s a trip to see so many of the genre’s pioneers organized in one place. Run-DMC’s old stuff continues to sound great, and it’s simply a lot of fun to check out Eighties relics like Kurtis Blow and the Fat Boys. We also get quick looks at LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys, two of the very few acts from the era who continue to enjoy success in the 21st century.

Otherwise, the movie seems silly and predictable. The musical numbers tend to bring the minor story to a halt, and the production values appear badly dated. Most of the era’s music hasn’t aged very well, and the film appears terribly stuck in its period.

The thin characters and weak performances don’t help matters. Blair Underwood makes his feature-film debut as Russell, but he doesn’t show a lot of star power. Actually, his casting feels like an ego trip, as Underwood looks about 100 times hunkier than the real Russell, who co-produced the flick. (To compare for yourself, watch any scene with Crocket, the theater manager, and you’ll see the huge difference between the real and fantasy Russells.)

Still, Underwood comes across like a rap Olivier compared to the rest of the main cast. Of course, most of them are amateurs in the acting game, so I can’t fault them too badly. Nonetheless, the performances of Run and the other musical performers range from wooden to stiff, so they do nothing to help the movie.

Krush Groove manages some appeal as a time capsule. We get a sporadically fun look at many of rap’s pioneers as they play themselves. However, as a movie, Groove offers little appeal. From its flat story to thin construction to weak performances, it hasn’t held up well over the last 17 years.

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

Krush Groove appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the picture seemed somewhat erratic at times, it generally presented a reasonably attractive presentation.

Sharpness appeared solid. The movie consistently came across as accurate and distinct. I noticed virtually no issues related to softness in this fairly tight and well-defined image. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. Print flaws stayed pretty minor. Grain caused the most noticeable distractions, as some parts of the movie displayed moderately high levels. Otherwise, only a few specks and bits of grit appeared in this generally clean image.

Colors tended to appear somewhat heavy. The film displayed a palette that emphasized dark tones at nightclubs, and those generally came across as a bit dense and over-saturated. At times the hues appeared vivid and distinct, but much of the time they showed excessively muddiness. Black levels were reasonably deep and rich, but shadow detail was a bit muddy. Low-light shots usually came across as a little thick and tough to discern. In the end, the movie still looked pretty good given its age and origins, but the image didn’t merit a grade above “B-“.

I found the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Krush Groove to seem less satisfying. The film’s soundfield maintained a heavy orientation toward the forward bias, but the imaging didn’t sound very natural. The mix presented some modest ambient audio that failed to create an accurate spatial impression, and the stereo music seemed oddly placed. The various songs generally seemed to come mainly from one side of the spectrum or the other, without much distinct spread across the speakers. I also noticed some vocal bleeding at times.

As for the surrounds, they remained largely passive. The rear speakers added some general environmental sounds, but otherwise they failed to provide much material. I noticed no definite concerns with the surrounds, but I also didn’t detect anything much of use from them.

Audio quality generally came across as somewhat flat and dense. Speech tended to sound thick and demonstrated an odd sense of reverb that made the dialogue tinny and unnatural. The lines remained generally intelligible, but they failed to appear concise and distinct. Effects played a minor role in the proceedings, and they displayed similarly thin and flat. Music sounded awfully dense and thick. Bass response appeared decent, but the dynamics presented by the songs seemed drab and muddy. Given the age of the material, I still felt the audio merited a “C-”, but not much about it sounded too positive.

While not packed with extras, Krush Groove tosses in a few supplements. Most significantly, we find an audio commentary with director Michael Schultz, actor Blair Underwood, and Source Magazine Senior Editor Brett Johnson. All three sat together for this running, screen-specific track. Overall, the piece offered a nice look at the film and the era. The participants covered a good mix of subjects. We learned about the origins of the story along with its development, the casting, and many elements of the production. Schultz concentrated on specific aspects in that realm, while Underwood chimed in with some memories from the set. Johnson helped place all of this in historical perspective and gave us information about the acts and the era. Frankly, I didn’t expect much from this commentary, but it offered a compelling and informative chat.

Next we find ”Tender Love” Live with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. This offers a seven-minute and five-second program that mostly involves an interview with Jam and Lewis. They describe how they got to know each other and reflect on their careers, how they did “Tender Love”, and their reflections on Krush Groove. They also perform a short live version of “Tender Love” in this short but engaging and informative piece.

In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, we find a music video. The Krush Groove All-Stars do “Krush Groovin’”, the song heard over the flick’s end credits. Actually, that’s essentially what we find here. We see the same concluding performance with some additional movie clips inserted. The song seems lame, and the video comes across as blah and fairly pointless.

For the most part, I feel the same about Krush Groove as a movie. Though it seems fun to revisit the early days of rap and check out some of its pioneers, the film suffers from a tired plot, dull execution, and poor acting. The DVD presents erratic but fairly decent picture quality along with moderately weak sound and a small roster of supplements highlighted by a surprisingly informative and useful audio commentary. Fans of Krush Groove likely will enjoy this reasonably solid DVD release, but others likely will want to skip this dated and bland movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6071 Stars Number of Votes: 28
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