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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Kennedy
Kennedy
Wellspring // Unrated // October 7, 2003
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Shannon Nutt | posted November 22, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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THE MOVIE

As with all movies based on famous people, it often takes a bit of time to get used to an actor in a certain role. But despite the fact that Martin Sheen is much shorter than John F. Kennedy was (Sheen is only about 5'7", Kennedy was about 6'0"), just about everything about him in the made-for-TV mini-series Kennedy seems to channel the 35th President of the United States. From his Bostonian accent, to his mannerisms, to his charisma, Sheen has done a great job in this role.

Sadly, the same can't be said for the mini-series as a whole, which is overall an average affair, with some of the actors (aside from Sheen, both E.G. Marshall and Blair Brown are solid in their portrayals of Joe and Jackie Kennedy) nailing their parts, while others (Vincent Gardenia as J. Edgar Hoover) simply playing caricatures of the real people.

The opening minutes of Kennedy deal with the family members receiving word about the assassination in Dallas…and then we jump back to the evening of the 1960 election, where Kennedy beat Richard Nixon out by the slimmest of margins. The mini-series (which aired back in 1983…making it a piece of history in and of itself) is in three parts over two DVDs, with Part One dealing with the election through the Bay of Pigs fiasco; Part Two covering segregation issues in the south through the stroke suffered by Joe Kennedy; and Part Three wrapping things up with the Cuban Missile Crisis through that fateful November day in 1963.

While I still think Bruce Greenwood's portrayal of JFK in Thirteen Days is the definitive one, Sheen does a great job here – and it's not too difficult to see why the producers of The West Wing chose Sheen to portray their fictitious President almost two decades later.

THE DVD

Video:
As noted above, Kennedy is a mini-series from 1983, and the picture quality here shows that. Presented in the full-frame format, the picture has a lot of obvious grain and dirt in it, and seems quite washed-out in terms of color.

Audio:
The audio isn't much better in quality than the video, giving us a 2.0 soundtrack that is serviceable, but did seem to have a "scratchy" quality about it.

Extras:
JFK fans and historians will appreciate the bonus material here (all of which is on the second DVD). Totaling about 75-minutes in all, the extras include JFK's Inaugural Address; a 30-minute film entited One Week In October which is a Department of Defense piece covering the Cuban Missile Crisis; a segment entitled One Day In Berlin which contains excerpts from Kennedy's famous Berlin Wall speech; and The Last Two Days, which is about 20-minutes worth of footage from JFK's November 1963 trip to Dallas. According to the DVD, all this material has been provided by the JFK Presidential Library, and it's some great companion material for this disc.

THE BOTTOM LINE

I'm going to recommend this one as a rental for all except those die-hard JFK fans and historians, who will probably want to add this disc to their collection. The mini-series is an interesting watch (and a nice history lesson for those younger viewers out there), but it doesn't quite have the emotional impact that it could or should – perhaps because for every great performance (like Sheen's), there's an uneven or off-mark one (like Gardenia's). Still, with all of the Kennedy material being released due to the 40th anniversary of his death, this DVD ranks high on the worth-seeing list.
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