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  • Jeff Beck

The Fabelmans: Spielberg Takes a Stroll Down Memory Lane (Blu-ray)


The Film:


For decades, master filmmaker Steven Spielberg has given us some of the greatest and most beloved movies of all time, including "Jaws," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "E.T.," "Schindler's List," and "Saving Private Ryan," but there's one story that he's been waiting all this time to tell: His own. How did he get his start in making movies, and what was it that sparked his love of cinema in the first place? With his latest project, "The Fabelmans," he takes us back to where it all began about 70 years ago.


One night in 1952, Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano) take their son, Sammy (Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord), to see his first film: Cecil B. DeMille's "The Greatest Show on Earth." Most fascinated by the film's remarkable train crash sequence, Sammy asks for a train set in order to recreate it, a scene his mother allows him to shoot with his father's 8mm camera. This leads to him filming movies on a regular basis, even when they have to pack up and move to Phoenix because of his father's new job. The film continues to follow teenage Sammy (Gabriel LaBelle) as he pursues his passion for filmmaking with his friends from his Scout Troop, evolving his techniques as he gains more knowledge about the medium, while also discovering that his art can have both positive and negative impacts.


"The Fabelmans" is a sweet, sentimental film in which the famed director takes a stroll down memory lane, recreating key moments from his childhood to show us what shaped him into the cinematic genius he is today. He supposedly scrutinized every detail, with very careful attention given to the houses he grew up in, as well as his progression as an artist. However, you have to imagine that, next to the story itself, the utmost care would have to be given to who would portray his family (including himself, of course), and that's where we end up finding the film's biggest strength.


The stunning cast includes fantastic performances from Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Gabriel LaBelle, Seth Rogen (as a family friend), and Judd Hirsch (as Mitzi's uncle). Spielberg painstakingly chose these actors, with specifically special attention to who would play his parents, because he saw in them the elements that he felt best became these people from his real life, and the result is a fantastic ensemble that takes the somewhat predictable material and gives it a little boost. It's hardly a wonder that they received a Best Cast nomination from SAG (as well as a Supporting Actor nod for Dano), with Williams and Hirsch later receiving Oscar nods.


As for the film itself, it's very fair to say that it's rather light and average, which is not to say that it's bad at all, but rather that it's a good film that you won't be thinking about for days after (besides the performances, perhaps). Spielberg's story is an interesting one, and it unfolds pretty much how you'd expect in terms of how he got into the art of making movies, with other family developments mixed in that you might not be expecting. The Academy may have gone a little overboard with nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay (no one can really deny Spielberg directing his own life didn't deserve a nod), but, as mentioned, it's a sweet film, and while it may run a little long at 151 minutes, it's definitely worth it to see where one of the greatest filmmakers of all time got their start.


Video/Audio:


"The Fabelmans" comes to Blu-ray in a 1.85:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. The image is sharp for the most part, highlighting the film's spectacular sets & costumes, while the 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track is flawless, giving you the dialogue and John Williams' remarkable score in excellent quality. Overall, you're left with a very pleasant experience in both areas.


Special Features:


The Fabelmans: A Personal Journey (11 Minutes): A featurette that has Spielberg & Kushner talking about bringing the film to life.


Family Dynamics (15 Minutes): A featurette that focuses on the cast.


Crafting the World of The Fabelmans (22 Minutes): A featurette that focuses on the film's visual aspects (sets, costumes, etc.).


Conclusion:


Steven Spielberg's "The Fabelmans" may be a light, average film that's not particularly memorable, but thanks to an exceptional ensemble and an intriguing story of how a cinematic genius got his start, it becomes well-worth the somewhat lengthy two and a half hour investment.


Score: 3.5/5


Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.


Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.



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