Although Beyonce Knowles of the group Destiny's Child is now gaining fame for her performance in the new "Austin Powers" movie, this MTV movie was something of a practice run for the singer's possible future in acting. Directed by Robert Townsend as if he'd had one too many Mountain Dew's before he stepped behind the camera, this is an update of the classic opera tale, only with hip-hop.
This time around, Mekhi Phifer stars as Sergeant Derrick Hill, who's seeing Caela (Reagan Gomez-Preston). When Carmen (Knowles) steps through the door of the bar the two are at, though, there's instant chemistry, but no sparks. When Carmen gets busted for starting a catfight at the same bar (it seems odd that she'd get arrested for what amounts to a five-second catfight, when she'd more likely simply be thrown out). Hill's the one that has to pick her up and take her in, but she ends up convincing him to do otherwise and take her back to her house. When he wakes up the next morning, she's gone and he's in deep trouble. When he's released, he sets off to find the aspiring actress, who's now seeking fame in Hollywood.
More seems to have been spent on the actors and the music than the sets and appearance. Although the raps are interesting, fun and entertaining and the actors give fine performances, the movie frankly looks cheap. Filmed on obviously inexpensive and dull sets, the movie also suffers from murky, blah lighting. It doesn't help that Townsend throws in random editing tricks that do nothing but call attention to themselves. Pacing of the nearly 90 minute film could have been improved, too - there are too many stretches that are noticably slow.
I liked Knowles, who has great presence on-screen and she recieves solid support here from Phifer and several other actors. Their performances are sincere enough and compelling enough that I wish a better movie had been constructed around their efforts.
VIDEO: "Carmen" is presented by New Line in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and full-frame editions. Given that the film was presented on the network in full-frame, it's pleasing that they've decided to offer an anamorphic widescreen edition. However, the low production vallues occasionally make the image quality of the presentation suffer. During some of the more murky-looking scenes, some slight pixelation is spotted. Edge enhancement, although certainly not a major problem, was seen in light amounts during a few scenes, too. On a positive note, print flaws aren't noticed.
Sharpness and detail are definitely varied throughout the film, as well. Some scenes appear noticably soft and hazy, while others appear at least moderately crisp. Shadow detail remains lackluster throughout. Colors usually appeared warm and bright, but did look slightly smeary on a few occasions. Overall, a decent transfer.
SOUND: "Carmen" is presented, as it was in broadcast, in Dolby 2.0. Although much of the film is dialogue/rap-driven, the music does sound noticably full and rich and dialogue remained clear.
MENUS: Nicely animated main menu featuring Knowles.
EXTRAS: A 20-minute MTV "making of" that's light on insight and heavy on goofing around is included.
Final Thoughts: "Carmen: A Hip-Hopera" is an interesting idea and offers fine performances, but low production values and an attempt to make the visuals more lively with absurd editing tricks make the film suffer. Rent it.