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Roberto Benigni
Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini, Giustino Durano, Sergio Bini Bustric, Marisa Paredes
Writing Credits:
Vincenzo Cerami, Roberto Benigni

An unforgettable fable that proves love, family and imagination conquer all.

A Jewish man has a wonderful romance with the help of his humour, but must use that same quality to protect his son in a Nazi death camp.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$118.920 thousand on 6 screens.
Domestic Gross
$57.598 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Italian DTS-HD MA 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 116 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 10/4/2011

• “Making Life Beautiful” Featurette
• Academy Awards TV Commercials
• Trailer
• Sneak Peeks


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Life Is Beautiful [Blu-Ray] (1998)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 28, 2011)

During the weeks between the announcement of the nominations and the actual ceremony, I usually try to take in whatever Academy Award Best Picture nominees that I'd missed along the way. I've always enjoyed the awards presentation, and although these final few screenings don't usually change my opinion about what I think should win, they make the ceremony more fun for me.

Despite that consistent desire, I usually don't make it to all five just because at least one or two of the nominated films absolutely disinterest me. For the crop of 1998, I managed to screen all of the five nominated films except one: Life Is Beautiful. I just couldn't do it - it had too many strikes against it. The flick looked sentimental and cloying, and I simply can't stand Roberto Benigni. I can't pin down exactly when this obnoxious moron first came to my attention - probably in the early Nineties when he made Johnny Stecchino - but I took an instant dislike to his inane antics. Nothing I saw about Beautiful made it seem likely that I'd change my mind.

Now that I've actually seen the film, I must acknowledge that it wasn't as bad as I expected. However, I didn't think it was very good, either.

Every once in a while I do a complete 180 on a movie. Good Will Hunting is another Oscar nominee that I'd skipped during its theatrical run; when I saw the DVD, though, I realized that I'd been wrong in my impressions of that fine film.

With Beautiful, however, I pretty much hit the mark, as the actual film came very close to what I expected it to be. Benigni wasn't quite as obnoxious as I thought he would be, but he still seemed pretty clownish and annoying. Why he won a Best Actor Oscar remains an absolute mystery to me. Yes, he does physical comedy pretty well, but he displays very little emotional range; he always seems pretty much the same.

Ultimately, my main complaint with Beautiful is that the film seems pointless. I don't mind more movies about the Holocaust, but they should have something new to say, which this one doesn't. It's the first time in a while a movie has tried to personalize the experience in this way - Beautiful doesn't attempt the grand statement of a picture like Schindler’s List - but the movie offers such a slight contraption that it didn't involve me.

Sophie’s Choice remains by far the best film of this sort, and in many ways, Beautiful echoes that far superior movie. Choice did an excellent job of conveying the tragedy and the terror of the Holocaust; I still think the scene in which Sophie has to make her choice stands as one of the most crushing I've ever seen.

Nothing in Beautiful even remotely approaches that level of emotion. At the risk of sounding glib, this movie's closest predecessor is Hogan's Heroes. While Beautiful is actually more serious than that show, it nonetheless seems rather light and rarely imports any of the seriousness or tragedy of the situation. No, not every Holocaust film has to be consistently dark and horrific - Sophie's Choice offers a nice balance - but Beautiful offers almost no glimpse of the threat and the fear. Life during wartime seems a bit dreary, but that's about it.

The Holocaust scenes actually only account for the second half of Beautiful. The first hour or so shows Guido (Benigni) wooing his hoped-for mate. Much wackiness ensues, including a wide variety of gags that involve hats. If you like Benigni's style of humor, I'm sure you'll be happy here. As for me, he leaves me cold – or actively annoys me with his mugging and silliness - so those moments didn’t work for me.

Ultimately, Life Is Beautiful offers a fairly watchable little film but nothing more than that. It's not bad, but in no way did it deserve all of the accolades it received.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus D

Life Is Beautiful appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Despite a few rough spots, this was usually a pretty solid transfer.

Sharpness presented the erratic elements. The first few minutes looked awfully soft and faded, and a few later instances of less-than-precise shots appeared. However, these became infrequent, and the movie mostly displayed strong clarity; after the opening, the vast majority of the movie looked accurate and distinctive. I noticed no jaggies or moiré effects, and edge haloes were absent. Print flaws created no distractions.

Given the period setting, colors usually seemed fairly subdued – especially during the concentration camp-based second half, which went with the expected grayish tones. During the first half, brighter hues appeared, and when allowed to soar, they did; the brighter hues seemed lively and dynamic.

Most of the movie didn’t opt for such vivacity, but the colors remained pleasing. Blacks were deep and tight, while shadows seemed natural and well-depicted. Really, only the occasional softness created problems here; the vast majority of the flick looked great.

While I don't expect a whole lot from the audio for a comedy/drama such as Life Is Beautiful, I expect more than I heard from the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix here. The sound imaging was fairly weak for such a modern release. Some definition appeared in the front soundstage, with good stereo imaging for music and for some effects in the concentration camp, such as the factory in which the characters work. A rainstorm broadened across the channels reasonably well, too.

However, the audio tended to seem rather monaural much of the time. For example, sometimes cars panned appropriately across the front channels, but often they didn't. The rear speakers were quite underused. A few ambient effects popped up back there, and some musical fill occurred, but that's about it. Again, I didn’t expect auditory theatrics, but I would’ve liked more than the big pile of nothing we got.

How did this Blu-Ray compare with those of the original DVD from 1999? Unfortunately, I don’t still have that disc and was unable to locate a copy for direct comparison purposes. However, I’d suspect that audio was pretty similar. The Blu-ray’s sound didn’t exactly dazzle, so I’d guess this lossless mix didn’t add a lot to the equation.

On the other hand, I’m sure the Blu-ray offered a significant visual improvement. The DVD lacked enhancement for 16X9 TVs, so it would look pretty bad on modern widescreen sets. It also had sharpness problems and some artifacts that made it less than appealing. I wish I could’ve offered direct comparisons, but even without them, there’s little doubt that the Blu-ray’s picture offered a big step up in quality.

Only minor extras appear here. Making Life Beautiful runs 23 minutes, 26 seconds and features comments from writer/director/actor Roberto Benigni, film reviewer Ben Dworkin, Simon Wiesenthal Center founder/dean Rabbi Marvin Hier, film historian Mark Rance, Institudo Italiano de Cultura director Guido Fink, film critic Glenn Whipp, and actors Walter Matthau, Michael Keaton, and Nicoletta Braschi. “Making” tells us virtually nothing about the film’s creation. Instead, it tells us a) Beautiful is an amazing movie, and b) Benigni is an amazing artist. It’s a thoroughly obsequious – and useless – program.

The disc opens with ads for Biutiful, Precious, Winter’s Bone and Good Will Hunting. These appear under Also from Lionsgate as well. In addition, the disc throws in a trailer and five minutes, 20 seconds of TV ads.

Life Is Beautiful offers a curiously cheery take on the Holocaust. While I admit it’s a better film than I expected, it still seems lightweight and it fails to deliver an especially emotional tale. The Blu-ray provides very good picture, adequate audio and lackluster supplements. The Blu-ray presents the movie well, and given its cheap list price, fans should be able to forgive the insubstantial bonus materials.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 3
0 3:
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