It's probably a safe bet that anyone savvy enough to seek out DVD reviews online has stumbled upon his or her fair
share of intensely negative rants inspired by Glitter, Mariah Carey's infamous and long-delayed vanity project. The movie was a dismal
box office failure, and its accompanying soundtrack fell so short of expectations that Carey's label was supposedly mulling
over whether or not to cut their losses and eat tens of millions of dollars by dropping her from their roster. Despite the paltry number of people willing to subject themselves to Glitter theatrically, this dud quickly found itself among the most hated movies in the public
consciousness. It was the constant butt of jokes from every conceivable outlet, ranging from Saturday Night Live's
Weekend Update's quip that Osama Bin Laden is likely in a barren, lifeless place, such as theaters screening Glitter,
to the widespread rumors online that captured Taliban members were being tortured by incessant forced viewings of the film.
Ignored by audiences and despised by critics, Glitter inspired such glowing comments as:
I'll be up-front: I don't like Mariah Carey, I don't like the songs of hers that I've heard, I don't like her style of singing, I
don't like the way she comes across in the few interviews with her that I've been unfortunate enough to endure, and
sacreligious though this may be, I don't find her particularly attractive. She looks far too simian for my tastes, like a chimpanzee savagely assaulted with gallon drums of silicone by Beverly Hills' most breast-tacular plastic surgeons. Still, I couldn't resist the urge to watch the movie that inspired oh so many gleefully venomous jabs.
- "A vehicle that tarnishes as you watch it, leaving this troubled chart-topper lost in a sea of drunken, maudlin cliches."
» Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
- "About as fresh as rancid Chinese food that has been stuck in the back of the refrigerator for several months."
» Dustin Putman, The Movie Boy
- "Carey acts the way Jennifer Lopez sings -- meekly and badly."
» Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
- "There is good. There is bad. There is worse and terrible and pathetic and painful. Then there is Glitter."
» Chuck Schwartz, Cranky Critic
Glitter is set in 1983 New York City, starring Mariah Carey in a Horatio Alger-style story of
rags to riches. Well, maybe that'd be the case if Alger's novels were to exchange the less glamorous "pulling oneself up by
the bootstraps" in favor of celebrity inevitably falling into someone's lap. Carey is Billie Frank, a plucky orphan
who follows in the footsteps of her lounge club singin' mother after enduring the requisite droll childhood trauma.
While "ghosting" in a club for a considerably less-talented songstress, Billie attracts the attention of a DJ
curiously named Dice (Max Beesley) who sees past the charade and is interested in producing some music with her. The Dice-man
buys out Billie's contract for a sinfully large sum of money, and the pair set off to merrily skip down the road to fame and
fortune. The two become an item, though the tumultuous nature of the industry threatens to tear them apart. Meanwhile,
Billie keeps an eye out for her long lost mother while becoming indescribably famous, and a minor crisis rears its head when
it's revealed that Dice didn't actually cough up any of the cash for Billie's contract, incurring the wrath of some thug cum producer. Yeah.
There's so much wrong with Glitter that I'm nearly overwhelming trying to find a starting point, though I suppose I
might as well begin with its leading lady. Mariah Carey's range as an actress is sorely limited, not helped much by a script
that gives her so little to do. Billie Frank is presented as a character without any flaws or much personality at all. She's
just a talented singer who, yes, can write her own tunes, and everyone who amounts to anything adores her. The
self-congratulatory nature of Glitter, which is a thinly veiled Carey bio in many respects, is an embarrassment. The
insubstantial, cliché-riddled dialogue consists almost entirely of characters telling Billie how wonderful she is or provide
some meager amount of dramatic tension. There are obstacles Billie has to overcome, but they're all external and
entirely lifted from the Big Book O' Stock Plot Points. As should be horrendously obvious from promotional stills and TV
spots, Billie does triumph over adversity and becomes a world-famous pop star. Cinema is supposedly about the journey, not
the destination, but neither inspire the faintest amount of interest here. My collection is almost entirely comprised of
movies that aren't exactly critics' darlings, and I'm more aware than most that even a movie that's lacking in any technical
merit can still manage to be wildly entertaining. Glitter, sadly, isn't so awful that it falls into any sort of "so
bad, it's good" category. I'm tempted to make some half-witted comment like "all that glitters is not gold!", but I
wouldn't want to resort to the same sort of lackluster, poorly conceived style of writing as the scribes who penned this
movie. Glitter is just a complete and total bore in every respect, not even worth a peek as a curiosity.
Video: I set myself up to expect a glossy, stylized picture. To my utter amazement, Glitter, which is presented
at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for 16x9 televisions, actually looks like a motion picture and not merely an
extended music video. Not a total shocker for a movie so recently trotting out of theaters, the print doesn't show any signs
of wear (:coughs:). The very light grain present throughout is presumably a conscious decision, not some wacky
error at the transfer stage, and infrequent softness scattered about a few scenes is likely the remnant of what is shamefully
a comparatively low budget effort in Hollywood. Colors appear as vivid and hypersaturated as one would expect from a flick
set in the decadence and bright lights of '80s-era New York City, and black levels are deeper than any element of
Glitter itself. Though the level of detail is nothing extraordinary, the image is reasonably crisp and clear for 99%
of the duration. Glitter looks fine, and there are no complaints so extreme that would have me recommending that the
three or four people interested should set their sights elsewhere. The flip side contains a 4x3 version, though to maintain
what few ragged threads of sanity remain, avoided a comparison.
Audio: An individual of Mariah Carey's stature can command the best mixing talent in the industry, and their skill and
talent shines in this Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The engaging, enveloping audio sucked me squarely into the center of the
expansive soundspace. Though a shut-in like myself wouldn't have first hand experience, the club scenes felt as if I were
shaking it to Frankie Goes To Hollywood at the wee hours of the morning in New York City fifteen years ago. The surround
channels are used often and effectively, offering much more in the way of discrete effects than I'd expect for this sort of
movie, which on the surface would seem to be focused on dialogue and a few showcased songs. The range of the audio is about
as varied as Mariah Carey herself. The LFE roars with activity, adding a phenomenal low frequence presence to the songs used
throughout, and upper octave vocals are reproduced beautifully. The Dolby Digital audio is probably Glitter's only
redeeming quality. There are also subtitles in English and French, as well as a French audio track.
Supplements: Director Vondie Curtis-Hall contributes a feature-length commentary track. I was hesitant about popping Glitter into my DVD player a second time, but his discussion is actually quite bearable, at least as background noise. Curtis-Hall touches on nearly every facet of production, including the development of the screenplay, Mariah's years of preparation for her feature film debut, casting the right people to complement the lead actress, the studio's displeasure with Mariah's accent, and various other hurdles encountered throughout. Though the director isn't brimming with enthusiasm, there aren't too many pauses between comments (within, now that's an entirely different matter), and he manages to incorporate just about everything into the chat. The notable exception to that would seem to be critical reaction and its poor take at the box office, but I admittedly wasn't giving the commentary my full, undivided attention the whole time.
There are also two music videos. The first is "Never Too Far", which looks like it was ripped directly from the pan-and-scan
version of the movie. The racetrack-themed "Loverboy" looks like a low-res Avid export. Rounding out the supplements are
three trailers (Glitter, Center Stage, and Dance With me) and cast/crew bios.
Conclusion: Maybe Mariah Carey's fanbase skipped Glitter's theatrical run in favor of its inevitable video/DVD
release. I find Mariah grating in general, and my attitude wasn't swayed by her horrifying feature film debut. It might
possible be of some interest to the same people who felt compelled to give Battlefield Earth a spin or stop to look at
car accidents on the interstate. Perhaps this'll be the last time I intentionally select such an awful movie from the
screener pool, but I guess the arrival of Mariah's followup, Wise Girls, will be the first true test of that. Though
it's against my poorly-defined review policy to advise my readers to skip a movie, it's unavoidable in the case of