Best Blu-ray Deals
Best Blu-ray Deals, See All the Deals »
Top deals |
Yorkshire, during the endless, violent 1984 strike against the Thatcher closure of British coal mines. Widower Jackie Elliot and his firstborn, fellow miner Tony, take a dim view of 11 year-old second son Billy's poor record in boxing class, which worsens when they discover he sneakily transferred to the neighboring, otherwise girls-only-attended ballet class. Only one schoolmate, closet-gay Michael Caffrey, encourages Billy's desire, aroused by the teacher, who judged him talented enough for private lesson, to train and try out for the world-renowned Royal Ballet audition. Only the prospect of a fancy career unimagined in the pauper quarter may twist pa and big brother's opposition to indispensable support.
For more about Billy Elliot and the Billy Elliot Blu-ray release, see Billy Elliot Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 30, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jamie Bell, Gary Lewis, Jamie Draven, Julie Walters (I), Jean Heywood, Lee Williams
Director: Stephen Daldry
» See full cast & crew
Billy Elliot Blu-ray Review
"I feel a change in me whole body. Like there's fire in me body. I'm just there, flying."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 30, 2012
If you've never had the desire to sit down and give Billy Elliot a fair shot, chances are it's because you've pegged director Stephen Daldry's Oscar-nominated drama as a feel-good tearjerker about a young boy who dreams of being a dancer. But if you've been avoiding dear Billy these past twelve years based on little more than a vague plot summary, theatrical trailer, movie poster or snap judgment, you should seriously consider jettisoning your preconceived notions and giving the 2000 Academy Awards contender the benefit of the doubt. Billy Elliot isn't a feel-good tearjerker about a young boy who dreams of being a dancer. That would be selling the film short, to say nothing of its award-worthy performances, screenwriter Lee Hall's wry slice-of-period-life script, its moving coming-of-age story, and its unexpected tone and R-rated tenor. No, the little dark horse that (almost) could is actually much, much more; much funnier, much darker, much more compelling, and much more poignant. Sadly, though, it's been undersold, undervalued and underrated from day one.
Set during the 1984 UK miners' strike, Billy Elliot weaves the smile-cracking tale of an 11-year-old boy (Jamie Bell) who begins taking ballet lessons in secret after realizing he doesn't have much interest in boxing, the sport of his father and every other lad within spitting distance. But a young boy can only bound out of his house -- racing to some mysterious destination -- so many times before a family starts asking questions. Billy's family takes a bit longer to catch on than most, but only because theirs is a tougher lot in life. Billy's gruff father, Jackie (Gary Lewis), is still mourning the loss of his beloved wife and, because of his support of the strike, hasn't been able to work in the local coal mines for months; a difficult choice that's left the family in dire economic straits and the hard-working bread winner in a testy mood. Billy's hot-headed older brother Tony (Jamie Draven) is even more devoted to the strike and the cause, protesting the sway the powers that be hold over the common man. And their grandmother (Jean Heywood), a former dancer, isn't all there, and fading in her old age. Is it any wonder the boy wants more out of life than to smack a schoolmate in a ring, grow up in a time of socioeconomic upheaval, and mine coal like his father and (presumably) his father before him?
Daldry's hook is that Billy's drive isn't born out of a vacuum. Everything in his world is uncertain. Everything is cut off. Everything is finite. Rather than let the harsh realities of the life, death and the world pound him into submission, Billy decides to escape; to pursue his heart's calling no matter the consequence or challenge, no matter the scowls or mockery he has to endure. It doesn't take a lot to root for Billy -- he's both a fierce jab at and a carefully realized fulfillment of genre convention -- and it takes even less effort to like the defiant dreamer. (I dare you not to like the poor kid. Good luck.) Bell, standing head and shoulders above other young actors of his generation, adopts Jackie and Tony's fight or be crushed spirit with effortless ease, his grandmother's disregard for anything that might threaten her general contentedness and, even though we don't get to see it first hand, his deceased mother's inner strength and will to live. Billy might have his eyes set on the Royal Ballet School in London, but make no mistake, he's still a boxer in his own right. Who wouldn't be after going toe to toe with Jackie and Tony every day for eleven years? He finds a different outlet for the fightin' spirit he inherited from his dad, sure, but he's more of a fighter than his dad ever was; a fact that eludes Jackie for a time but doesn't escape him for too long.
And that fire? That electricity Billy feels when dancing? That isn't what sets him apart from other prepubescent coming-of-agers either. It's the boy's never-say-die tenacity; a gift of genes and good parenting bestowed upon him by Jackie and his late mum. He refuses to let anyone or anything rob him of his dream or stand in his way, and he keeps going back to the source of the flame no matter how much his father and brother protest his chosen path. At the same time, he's just a kid, and he faces and reacts to these obstacles like a kid. The point? Billy Elliot isn't another blip on the genre radar. It's something different. Something special. It doesn't just tell Billy's story, it tells Jackie's and Tony's stories too, and their individual struggles could have easily supported slightly different films with entirely different focuses. There isn't a single moment where Daldry isn't operating on multiple levels. Billy Elliot is all at once a rough-n-tough family drama, a bitingly funny character piece, a mourner's tragedy, a dreamer's bastion and, among its genre peers, a burly brute (one that's really just a big ol' softy once you get to know it). With Daldry up for Best Director, it could have even been nominated for Best Picture. Strike that. Should have been nominated for Best Picture, especially considering a pair of genre lightweights were filling out two of the five spots (Chocolat and Erin Brockovich, lesser films in more ways than I care to drift off topic to list). My advice? Don't misjudge Billy any longer. It isn't what you expect, it isn't what you think it is, and it doesn't deserve to be shoved in the corner. Like Billy himself, it becomes incredibly clear there's far more going on beneath the surface... if someone only takes the time to look.
Billy Elliot Blu-ray, Video Quality
I dream of a world with no edge enhancement. No DNR. A world free of edge halos and smearing. A world where a Billy Elliot release earns top marks for its video quality. Alas, that world isn't here just yet. The halos and blasé fine textures that haunt Universal's 1080p/VC-1 encoded presentation aren't among the most distracting I've seen, but they do beg the question: why did the film need tweaked at all? Are we dealing with an old DVD-era master, as I suspect? Or a heavy-handed remaster? Everything looks fairly good, from Brian Tufano's economically strained palette to the actors' wonderfully saturated skintones to the understated storminess that graces many scenes. While Universal had been making some small strides (baby steps, really) toward minting better catalog transfers, this one falls squarely in the middle of the studio's best and worst. Grain has been largely eliminated (along with many a texture), clarity is serviceable (and little more), and definition is, on the whole, less than spectacular (even if those with small to medium-sized screens will wonder what I'm grumbling about). On a positive note, colors are as chilly or toasty as they're meant to be, contrast is consistent and consistently satisfying, black levels are nice and earthy, and delineation is decent. It helps that the presentation is as proficient as it is, without any signs of compression mishaps or encoding difficulties Ultimately, though, persistent edge halos and overzealous noise reduction hold this one back from greatness. No one should avoid Billy Elliot's Blu debut for fear of sitting through an unwatchable video presentation (it nudges past its DVD counterpart, after all), but don't get too excited until you've seen it. It could look much better.
Billy Elliot Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Billy Elliot's stirring DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track steadies itself, darts across the soundstage and leaps with joyous enthusiasm... most of the time. Alas, there are a handful scenes, few and far between as they may be, that are front-heavy, thin and a wee bit stodgy, not that anyone but the most stringent audiophiles will complain. Dialogue is clean, bright and nestled snuggly within the struggling, soot-stained shanty that is Stephen Daldry's mining town. LFE output is hearty and assertive -- particularly when Billy plays his brother's records or hears music welling up inside of him -- and muffled footfalls, meaty punches, violent picket line encounters, and other low-end effects are given proper support. The use of the rear speakers is commendable as well, as rowdy crowds, tiny dancers, angry coal miners and street noise struts its stuff. And it doesn't stop there. Directionality is fairly accurate convincing, dynamics sing and soar, and pans are, by and large, graceful (even if a small number are a tad sluggish). If the flurry of strings and horns that embrace Billy's parting Swan Lake performance don't send shivers down your spine, well then, you don't have much of a spine. Ultimately, Billy Elliot's lossless mix exhibits real prowess, which isn't entirely common when dealing with twelve-year-old catalog titles.
Billy Elliot Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Billy Elliot: Breaking Free (SD, 23 minutes) is the only extra of note, but it's a solid one, offering a deeper overview of the production than its chummy narrator and EPK trappings might initially suggest. Director Stephen Daldry is present and accounted for (as are other key members of the cast and crew) and little is left to the imagination. A standard definition theatrical trailer is included as well.
Perhaps of some interest is the fact that the Blu-ray edition of Billy Elliot doesn't have a "Top Menu." A pop-up menu is available (with a "Pause" option and a Universal BD-Live news ticker), but the film simply loops back to the beginning when it reaches the end of the credits. Pressing the "Top Menu" button on your remote does nothing, other than confuse your Blu-ray player for a second. This is, as far as I know, the first Universal release formatted in this fashion.
Billy Elliot Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Billy Elliot, God help me for saying it, danced its way into my heart. I laughed, I cried, I did all the god-awful things typically associated with generic film-critic quotes. But Stephen Daldry's R-rated, Oscar-nominated coming-of-age jig isn't at all what I expected, and I suspect it won't be what most newcomers expect either. Funnier, darker, more sobering and more poignant than your average puppet-strings tear-jerker, its portrayal of a struggling family, an out-of-work widower and a bright-eyed boy who dares to dream a dancer's dream is quite the moving movie. The fact that Erin Brockovich was nominated for Best Picture over Billy Elliot still rubs me the wrong way. Ah well. Universal's Blu-ray release is worth the cost of admission, despite a so-so video presentation and a single extra. This is a film that, despite whatever you may think going in, deserves an audition in your home theater. Give it a shot and see just how difficult it is to resist its charms.
Use the thumbs up and thumbs down icons to agree or disagree that the title is similar to Billy Elliot. You can also suggest completely new similar titles to Billy Elliot in the search box below.
Similar titles suggested by members
Billy Elliot Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Billy Elliot Blu-ray (Updated) - November 17, 2011
As part of its 100th Anniversary next year, Universal Studios Home Entertainment will offer special re-issues of selected catalog titles, and the Billy Elliot Blu-ray will be in the first wave. Director Stephen Daldry's Academy Award-nominated dramedy stars Jamie ...
Billy Elliot Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
Billy Elliot Blu-ray Screenshots
Back to Billy Elliot Blu-ray »
Trending Blu-ray Movies
Trending in Theaters
This web site is not affiliated with the Blu-ray Disc Association.
All trademarks are the property of the respective trademark owners.
© 2002-2014 Blu-ray.com. All rights reserved.