EVITA 15th Anniversary Blu-ray Review

THE SET-UP
The music of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical gets a big screen treatment. The film follows the life of Eva Peron (Madonna) as she rises from poverty to the most powerful woman in Argentina. Also stars Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Pryce.
Directed by: Alan Parker

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THE DELIVERY
An outstanding musical based on one of history’s more polarizing figures, the film version of Evita celebrates its 15th anniversary with its first-ever Blu-ray release, with a newly remastered video transfer. Alan Parker directed and wrote the screenplay, and made the unique choice of telling the story using only the music. A musical with no spoken dialogue shouldn’t work, but the outstanding songs from Webber and Rice are so good, it manages to keep the audience entertained.  

That is not to say the movie is great. It is very good, but the biggest problem is the lead. Madonna, as a actress, is emotionally detatched from the audience, so the viewer never forms an attachment to the character. It tends to blunt the impact of Peron’s tragic end, and keeps the film from being truly special. Parker’s deft direction and the timeless music make up for some of Madonna’s shortcomings, but it isn’t enough. She sings well enough, but her dead shark eyes creep me out, frankly.

The real star here is Antonio Banderas, playing the everyman narrator who appears in different roles thoughout the film as the voice of conscience, and eventually, as the voice of common sense. While the film celebrates a life, it is ultimately a tale of hero worship, and a cautionary warning never to raise our idols too highly.

While beautifully shot, the film falters when it keeps too closely to the source material. It lags somewhat in the first half, and overall could have been tightened up. Once Peron rises to power, the films picks up considerably, and the music provides a riveting narrative bolstered by the fine performances of the cast.

It was no small task to tell a story completely through song, but Parker (with co-screenwriter Oliver Stone) manages to take the classic music and provide the right backdrop to tell a compelling story. Fans of the music of Evita will no doubt love the presentation here, although newcomers may find some of the modern orchestrations, including the rock opera influence, a bit odd.

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VIDEO AND AUDIO
While the video presentation is very good, the image overall is much softer than I expected, especially for a film just remastered for Blu-ray. The quality of the video varies shot to shot, with some scenes looking quite good and featuring vivid sharpness, while others show varying skin tones and significant film grain. Compared to the previous DVD release and versions shown on television, it looks great, but I expected much better from this Blu-ray. Some of the quality issues may be the source material, as it appears Parker kept Madonna out of focus slightly in some scenes to hide her age.

The sound is excellent, with a 5.1 DTS HD-MA soundtrack that gives the music the presentation it deserves. The music is given a full, multi-layered mix that sounds fantastic.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Headlining the extras is an extensive behind-the-scenes documentary, which provides a nice overview of the production and interviews with all of the principal actors and production staff. It also shows, once again, that Madonna can’t help coming across as a spoiled diva every time she opens her mouth.

Among the other extras are a music video of “You Must Love Me,” the Oscar-winning song from the film, and a teaser trailer.

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THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Movie: 7
Video: 7
Audio: 8
Extras: 6
Overall Grade: 7

Evita is an entertaining, and at times, a moving film, but Madonna’s inability to carry the movie hurts it considerably. Still, the music is great, and Banderas and Pryce are both solid, so there is a lot to like here. Fans of the musical will want to snatch this up to get an effective DTS HD sound mix. The video is less than impressive and I had hoped for more extras, but at the right price, musical fans can’t go wrong. I’m not a big fan of musicals, but even I enjoyed it.

BLU-RAY SPECS
Release Date: June 19, 2012
Rating: PG
Running time: 135 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Special Features: “The Making of Evita” documentary, “You Must Love Me” Madonna music video, Teaser Trailer.

Evita is now available from Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
Click here to order Evita: 15th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray from Amazon!