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  • Jeff Beck

The Color Purple (2023): A Wonderful Musical Adaptation of the Classic Story (Blu-ray)


The Film:


When the idea for a musical based on Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" first popped up, it was understandable why there would be some who would consider it a rather odd thing to do. The novel and the original film adaptation are beloved by so many, and the notion of adding songs into what's already a rather powerful story could be seen as unnecessary or just out of place. However, all of that was quickly dismissed when the Broadway show became a big success, earning a whopping 11 Tony Award nominations in the process. While it may have taken a while to get around to it, a film adaptation was announced in late 2018, at long last giving everyone else the chance to see how well a musical version of the classic story holds up.


Starting in Georgia in 1909, we meet young Celie Harris (Phylicia Pearl Mpasi), who lives with her father Alfonso (Deon Cole) and sister Nettie (Halle Bailey). Her father is a rather evil man who began raping her after the death of her mother, which resulted in two babies that Alfonso took away. He then forces her to marry a farmer by the name of Mister (Colman Domingo), who mistreats her as well. In an effort to escape their father, Nettie even moves in for a brief period, but is thrown out after rejecting Mister's advances. As the years roll by, Celie (played later by Fantasia Barrino) remains trapped in this wretched marriage, with other folks entering the picture along the way, including the outspoken wife of Mister's son Harpo (Corey Hawkins), Sofia (Danielle Brooks), and a jazz singer that Mister is seeing named Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson), all the while wondering if she'll ever receive word from her dearly-missed sister.


Within just a few minutes, this feature film adaptation of Alice Walker's novel and the hit Broadway show goes a long way towards silencing any doubters as to whether such a thing could possibly work. The music, for the most part, is quite good. There's a fine mix of catchy, uplifting, and generally well-suited numbers to go along with this emotional tale of family and making your way through a terrible situation. The presentation of the musical numbers does come off as a bit stagey at times, but it's a musical, and such a handsomely-mounted one, that chances are you either won't notice or simply won't care.


One could easily go on about how great the film looks, with its impressive production design & costumes beautifully bringing the story to life, and while those elements do deserve their fair share of the credit, the main element that makes the film work as well as it does is the phenomenal cast. Nominated for SAG's Best Cast award as one of the five best ensembles of the year, the cast includes Fantasia Barrino, Danielle Brooks (who also earned an Oscar nod), Taraji P. Henson, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, and many more. Because of them, the emotional richness of the material comes through perfectly, making it remarkably easy to get engaged with the characters and their intriguing storylines.


Overall, while there was no particular reason that a musical version of this story should've worked, the creators of the original show (and subsequently these filmmakers) have proven that, with the right kind of music & a remarkably talented cast, even a crazy idea like this can turn out extremely well. As always, it's an absolute delight to be taken totally by surprise by something like this, especially when it unexpectedly ends up being one of the very best films of the year.


Video/Audio:


"The Color Purple" comes to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. The image looks perfectly crisp & clear, highlighting the film's remarkable production & costume design. Likewise, the Dolby Atmos-TrueHD audio track is phenomenal, giving you all of the dialogue and, of course, the music in fantastic quality. Overall, Warner Bros. has done an absolutely wonderful job for the film's physical home debut.


Special Features:


Creating The Color Purple (6 Minutes)

Hell Yes! (7 Minutes)

In the Flow (8 Minutes)

A Story for Me (7 Minutes)


The Blu-ray comes with a series of brief, but interesting featurettes that cover areas including reinventing the classic, the characters, the musical numbers, and the story's legacy.


Conclusion:


Blitz Bazawule's "The Color Purple" is a dazzling musical adaptation of Alice Walker's classic novel and the hit Broadway show, brought to life by a remarkably talented ensemble, and featuring an impressive selection of songs, ultimately resulting in a surprising success & one of the best films of the year.


Score: 4/5


Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.


Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.



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