Another in a seemingly long line of comedy/dramas about working-class British characters that has caught on in the States, "Billy Elliot" isn't without a number of complaints and concerns, but a good deal of it - the performances, the characters, is entertaining and engaging enough to make much of it fun. The film stars newcomer Jamie Bell as Billy Elliot, a young lad who is forced by his father to take boxing lessons. Meanwhile, the father and older brother on strike from their mining jobs.
Billy's talents at boxing are...well, slim to none. He gets himself knocked out by his opponents often, but one day, the girls ballet class is forced into the gym. Billy is intrigued by the dance and joins in, finding himself terrible at first, but increasingly enjoying. His teacher is all for Billy's enterance into the class (reminding me of the teacher on "The Simpsons", when Bart finds himself with last choice for gym sport and finds himself similarly into ballet), but his father and brother are nothing less than horrified that Billy has gotten into this girl-ish thing.
It's obvious where the story is going at nearly every step of the way - Billy will predictably overcome the obstacles that are set before him. Even his father has a strangely quick change-of-heart about it all as he cheers his son on, who tries to get into the Royal Ballet School in London. The supporting characters, what few there are, are thinly drawn, and even the main characters aren't always fully realized. Bell's performance is energetic and joyful, but he can't carry the picture on his energy. The film is occasionally manipulative - although as a "feel good" movie it doesn't become completely sappy, there are moments that begin to become a little sugary for their own good.
The predictable nature of the film and some of awkward shifts between comedy and drama do make it a sometimes slow and uninvolving watch. Still, Bell gives a great performance that doesn't quite hold the movie together, but at leasts encourages us to follow the character. The film is rated R for nothing other than heavy cursing.
VIDEO: This is an excellent anamorphic transfer from Universal in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Sharpness and detail are often great - the film looks crisp, well-defined and clear throughout the running time, often showing nice depth to the image in some of the outdoor sequences.
Really the only problem that I noted was that there was some minor print flaws - just a couple of little marks - certainly no big deal. There weren't any instances of pixelation or edge enhancement to be found throughout the picture. Flesh tones looked natural throughout and black level was solid.
Keeping with the environment, the film's color palette remains a little bit cool and subdued, although colors generally seem natural and without problems. Not much to say about this effort from Universal - very good in all aspects with only a few tiny bumps.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is pretty decent - it comes alive every so often when some of the pop songs enter into the soundtrack, but other than that, it folds up into a dialogue-driven affair. The music score sounds strong and warm, with good clarity. The songs are often re-inforced by the surrounds. The surrounds are mainly quiet otherwise, though, with few exceptions during the intense strike sequences. Dialogue - although the accents are heavy, is clear.
MENUS:: Menus are non-animated, with very basic images serving as backgrounds. For example, the main menu simply re-uses the front cover.
Billy Elliot: Breaking Free: Although the opening of this 22 minute documentary is almost sickeningly promotional with a sappy voice-over, the main part of the featurette contains a few minor interesting bits of information - only a few though, as much of it is dull and not informative. Most of it has interviews talking about the story, paired with clips of the movie that those who have just watched the movie have just seen. This is a featurette definitely not worth your 22 minutes.
Trailer: A hilariously promotional, sappy and downright goofy trailer, I'm suprised the film ever found an audience with a poor advertisement like this one. Presented in 1.85:1/Dolby Digital 5.1.
Also:Production notes, cast/crew bios.
Final Thoughts: A good-natured altough unremarkable movie, I'm not as high on the film as many seem to be. Universal has put together an enjoyable presentation with good audio/video quality, but for such a popular movie, I would think there would be more in the extras department than the trailer and a weak documentary.