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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Terrible singing., 22 January 2002

There have been very few movies I have purposely turned off before reaching the end (maybe two out of 1,000). This just made the list.

I dunno, maybe I just wasn't in the right frame of mind, but this movie was just a bad music video. It was loud, the plot was utterly predictable (I didn't need to see the end to know what happened), the "modern songs with period sets" was simply a gimmick without purpose, the pace was unnecessarily frenetic, and worst of all, THE MUSIC STUNK. I can deal with most of the other stuff, but when I watch a musical, I want the music to be good. Duh. Whoever says that Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor can sing are tone deaf. I'm a musician, and I know good music. This is not it.

Want a "I never knew he/she could sing!" movie? Michelle Pfeiffer in "Fabulous Baker Boys" does OK (not great). John Travolta in "Grease". Tom Hulce (Mozart in "Amadeus") in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

Want a fast-paced, off-the-wall edited, frenetic movie? Requiem for a Dream.

Want a good musical? Little Shop of Horrors. Any Disney animation. The Wizard of Oz. The Sound of Music. Singing in the Rain. Heck, even Purple Rain (OK, it's more of a musical documentary, and the acting stinks, but you get my point).

Want good Ewan McGregor? Trainspotting. Even Phantom Menace.

Want good Nicole Kidman? Not sure what to tell you.

Want a quirky comedy? Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.

Want a loud movie? The Fellowship of the Rings.

Anything but this movie.

1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Missing the mark, 28 June 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** ....When We Were Colored is a well-intentioned, visually appealing movie that suffers from a pointless script and some poor acting. I try to recommend movies that paint a true picture of Americana - warts and all - especially those with historical slants, but this one has too many holes to make it worthwhile. If you're looking for reasons to see it, here are a few:

Positives: Al Freeman Jr. as "Poppa" is very good. He was the only believable character in the story. The "look" of the old south is very authentic, and great care was taken in securing vehicles, signage, clothing, etc. The music is "OK", especially in the Juke Joint scene, but I would have expected more in a film examining black southern culture during the time period.

Negatives: The plot is really just a bunch of cliches lopped together. Sure, a five year old kid in the deep south in the 1940s would be influenced by segregated bathrooms and water fountains, and the sight of a KKK parade down mainstreet, but (for the purposes of this film) so what? We've seen these images before (see recommendations below), and here they have absolutely nothing to do with the plot. An inordinate amount of time is spent on a peripheral character, Cliff's cousin (?) Melvin, who returns from Detroit to tell everybody how great it is up there. All he does is get in a knife fight, pick up some girl we never met before, and go back to Detroit. Again, what does this have to do with the plot? There are other well-intended, heart-string tugging moments, like the death of a family member, but such events are by no means uniquely southern, uniquely black, nor unique to the time period. (Spoiler ahead) Geesh, everybody's grandparents have died. Finally, while most of the cast is at least passable, some of the school-age boys look and sound like they were pulled off current-day schoolyards and shoved into knickers. I didn't find their dialogue to be particularly southern in its derivation.

As I say, I hate to pan a well-intentioned movie like this, and for some, just seeing what life in the deep south earlier in the last century may be enough - it does seem to be authentic. It could be argued that this is just a "slice of life" movie with no real intention other than to educate, but I felt as if I had seen it all before. If you want good movies on related topics, try Driving Miss Daisy (closest in time period - the final scene makes me cry), Four Little Girls (great documentary by Spike Lee), Ghosts of Mississippi (not a great film, but at least historically interesting), Mississippi Burning, Eve's Bayou (the best of these movies), The Color Purple, or even Soul Food (more contemporary, but an interesting story of black family life). There are many more....

A little Homer's Odyssey, a little Homer Simpson, 25 June 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My wife and I commented after seeing this that we should have re-read "The Odyssey" beforehand to get all of the character references, but it didn't really matter that much with regard to enjoying the movie, which overall, we did.

Negatives: 1) George Clooney's character is very uneven - at times brilliant, and at times boring. I found myself asking "What happened to the fast-talking, quick witted guy?" 2) The storyline took some leaps. After the KKK scene (see below), Clooney, et al., end up at a political fundraiser (or something). I didn't know why they were there or how they got there. 3) Lip-synching. Why do directors insist on closeups when actors are lip-synching? It just makes it all the more obvious that they are not really singing.

Positives: There are quite a few, but here are the biggest ones: 1) John Turturro is exceptional - Oscar level performance. 2) Tim Blake Nelson is also very good. Great comic timing. 3) The music is great! I tapped my foot all the way through the end of the credits. I keep an ear out for soundtracks to buy, and this is one on my list. 4) The KKK scene is HILARIOUS (Spoiler ahead...) I talked myself out of believing they were ripping off the Wizard of Oz when the scene first started, but it just kept going and Going and GOING. No "intellectual" humor here, just superb parody. 4) Dialogue. This is usually a given for Coen Bros. films, but it is particularly witty in this film, although it does get a bit over-the-edge at times (Clooney's character).

Not Fargo-level, but worth a rent.