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.