You might think now would be an inopportune time to release a documentary movie about the history of New Orleans music ... or indeed a shamelessly opportunistic one. The simple truth is that the colorful, exciting, and informative Make It Funky! was shot, produced, and released long before Hurricane Katrina hit, so please don't mistake this fine documentary for some sort of "cash in on the tragedy" sort of release.
Directed by Michael Murphy, populated by several of the Neville Brothers, laden with fascinating interview segments, and swollen with wonderful music, Make It Funky: The Music That Took Over the World may just be the finest documentary ever made about the life and times of New Orleans music and musicians. And if it's not, then the movie at least deserves a shelf-spot right next to the best one, because those with a taste for cracklin' Cajun concertos will have an absolute feast with what's offered here.
Starting back at the very earliest beginnings of the various strains and flavors that make up New Orleans music, Make It Funky! lives up to its name by delivering heaping helpings of historical info, intercut with insights from a variety of colorful characters and tons of stage shows.
Interview subjects and performers include Bonnie Raitt, Bob French, Earl Palmer, Allen Toussaint, Keith Richards, Gregory Davis, Steve Jordan, Ken Jackson, a whole bunch of random Nevilles, and several others. If you're already a big fan of the New Orleans sound, then this doco will prove to be an absolute treat, and if (like me) you're among the uninitiated, then this flick makes for one Funky! introduction to the jazzy, soulful, eclectic, and almost religious experience of Big Easy listenin'.
Video: Anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1), and the picture quality, for a relatively low-budget on-the-scene documentary, is pretty darn solid.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, which sounds perfectly fine, even if you have to crank your speakers up just a bit to get the funkiest results. Optional subtitles are available in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, and Thai.
Extras: There's one deleted scene ("Showdown at the Funky Butt") and a trio of featurettes. Culture of New Orleans (18:44), Family (13:44), and Music and Musicians (34:14) seem to be culled from deleted footage, excised performances, and unused interview segments, yet each one adds just a little more flavor to the gumbo. If the feature film left you hungry for an extra 65 minutes of footage, well, dig right in! Rounding out the platter is a trailer for Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within.
There's only two ways to tell the history of something like the music of New Orleans: Talk to the people who live it, and listen to the performances. Make It Funky! makes it wonderfully easy to do both, and it's the sort of documentary that informs and educates through sheer passion, excitement, and, yes, downright funkiness.