Back in the late 80's Michael Winslow was well know for his role as the human sound effects cop the seven Police Academy movies (as well as the very short lived Police Academy TV Series). Now a days his notoriety has faded, so many people aren't that familiar with Winslow - the human beat box. Winslow is truly amazing, he has the ability to make almost an infinite range of sounds and sound effects come from his mouth, everything, from a screaming electric guitar to a full on military assault.
If you've never seen or heard Winslow, you're really in for a treat. The mere spectacle of his ability is enough to make Michael Winslow: Comedy Sound Slapdown worth checking out. Unfortunately as a comedy concert film goes, it's really a 'one joke' / 'one trick' concert and while Winslow is a savant when it comes to making sounds he doesn't really have the comic timing or material to carry a full length show.
I was fortunate enough to see Winslow live back in his 'heyday' in the 80's. He was so wild and animated you couldn't constrain him. He let the F words fly without apology and wasn't tenuous when dealing with more mature subject matter. The intervening years haven't been good to Winslow who seemed a lot less energetic and a ton more sensitive to his content in Michael Winslow: Comedy Sound Slapdown. One of the things which struck me was how apparently out of shape he is, through out the show he became drenched in sweat and was quite breathless. I think this took away some of the sonic punch which makes him so fun to watch.
The biggest problem with Michael Winslow: Comedy Sound Slapdown is that the material really isn't all that great. Many of the jokes or set ups are rushed and weak and really are there only to get as quickly as possible to the sound effects he does. Also for some reason Winslow thinks that because he can do sounds he also can do impressions. His impression of the Crocodile Hunter is painfully bad and only slightly better than the simply awful impression of Tina Turner
In addition to the content being a little lacking, the production also left a lot to be desired. The transitions from one bit to another are jerky and disorienting and the production never comes together as a whole.
Video Michael Winslow: Comedy Sound Slapdown is presented in full screen with the opening sequenced in letterbox. I am fine with performance videos being full frame and the picture and image quality were both fine.
Audio Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad! For a DVD of a performance of a guy known for doing sound effects I was shocked at just how bad the audio for this DVD was. The audio levels fluctuated wildly through out the performance often being loud enough to create some distortion. What's worse is that in several sections of the DVD there was a distinct buzz. I'm sure it was something that happened at the time of recording (something in the sound board or with the mic), but it's something which can easily be fixed when producing the DVD. The audio is bad enough to advise even Michael Winslow fans to skip the disc.
Extras None. My expectations for a comedy concert aren't high in terms of extras, but it would have been nice to have an interview with Winslow as hearing the back story on how he got started with what he does might make viewing this performance even more enjoyable.
Final Thoughts It's unfortunate that Michael Winslow: Comedy Sound Slapdown isn't better, between the weakness in Winslow's material and the poor audio it's very hard to recommend this disc. If you've never heard winslow this might be a fun thing to rent and watch (with low expectations), but I seriously wonder if renting Police Academy wouldn't be a better use of your time and money.