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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » ATL
ATL
Warner Bros. // PG-13 // July 18, 2006
List Price: $28.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Phil Bacharach | posted July 16, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

ATL is adorned with some of the trappings of urban culture, but don't be fooled by the visual bling bling. Despite its kinetic filmmaking and virtually nonstop hiphop soundtrack, the movie is, at heart, an old-fashioned coming-of-age tale.

In following the lives of four African-American teenagers in Atlanta, ATL extols some tried-and-true virtues, exploring the bonds of family, friendship and community. Rapper T.I. stars as Rashad, a levelheaded 17-year-old high school student living in a poor section of south Atlanta with younger brother Antwone (Evan Ross), and their Uncle George (Mykelti Williamson). Rashad's parents died several years ago in an auto accident, and so his surrogate family includes best friends Esquire (Jackie Long), jockeying to get into an Ivy League college; Brooklyn (Albert Daniels), who can't seem to keep a job; and Teddy (Jason Weaver), still slogging through high school at the advanced age of 21.

Much of ATL's charm lies in its freewheeling, big-hearted approach to the world of these kids. The movie touches on such requisite concerns as drugs and poverty, but it soars when reveling in the exuberance of friends hanging out, cracking jokes and hitting on girls at The Cascade, the disco roller rink where they skate and dance away their Sunday nights. It is in the Cascade scenes, in fact, that ATL conjures up a similar vibe to that in Roll Bounce, an underrated 2005 flick about young black kids and roller disco.

First-time director Chris Robinson keeps things moving at a brisk clip, and he infuses the proceedings with some of the playful visuals he tapped in making music videos for Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and others. He is helped along by a solid young cast, especially T.I. in a strong performance.

Eventually, ATL veers into melodrama. Antwone is drawn to the allure of easy money by working for a drug dealer (Big Boi from the hiphop duo, OutKast). A little tougher to accept is a contrivance that involves Rasahd's girlfriend, a ghetto princess nicknamed New-New (Lauren London). Even so, the occasional fallback to cliché and coincidence is offset by the moviemakers' genuine affection for the characters. There are no real villains here; even the drug dealer is sort of likable. Come to think of it, so is ATL.

The DVD

The Video:

Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the DVD has an excellent picture quality -- sharp, clean and clear -- that you would expect from a recent theatrical release. Skin tones are realistic and colors are vibrant without being overpowering.

The Audio:

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio makes good use of the movie's first-rate soundtrack, but there is a disappointing lack of imagination when it comes to immersion of sound. A Spanish audio track is also available, while viewers can select subtitles in English, Spanish or French.

Extras:

Engaging and warm, In the Rink: A Director's Journey focuses on director Chris Robinson's work in bringing ATL to the big screen. The 28-minute featurette includes interviews with the director, producers and actors, as well as a fair amount of making-of footage.

The rest of the extras are of lesser interest. There are six minutes of six deleted scenes, none of them of much note. A Robinson-directed music video for T.I., "What You Know," is included, as is a theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts:

Yeah, you've seen the coming-of-age story told many times over, but ATL scores with its visual style, enthusiasm and sincerity.

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