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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Young @ Heart (2007)

“Pay attention to Bob Cilman. He may be a taskmaster, but that is exactly why the Young @ Heart is what it is.”
- Fred Knittle

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: September 24, 2008

Stars: Eileen Hall, Joe Benoit
Other Stars: Bob Cilman, Fred Knittle
Director: Stephen Walker

MPAA Rating: PG for (some mild language and thematic elements)
Run Time: 01h:48m:06s
Release Date: September 16, 2008
UPC: 024543527022
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B-B C

DVD Review

With the recent onslaught of “mainstream” documentaries over the last few years, it’s been tough for directors to carve out their own niche in the genre. With studios likely tired of releasing Iraq and Afghanistan-themed projects, along comes something to make us believe in the wonder of the documentary film again. Young @ Heart is the story of a group of singing senior citizens that are an honest to goodness professional act playing not only to prisons, but also to sold out crowds across the world. After a successful critical and limited box office run, the film makes its way to DVD, in what is more than likely a stepping stone to an Oscar nomination.

Bob Cilman is a 40-something musical director that seems like any other on the surface. Where Bob differs from his peers is in who he is directing. He’s behind the singing group Young @ Heart, a collection of senior citizens that sing their own renditions of mostly contemporary songs. Despite their ages and declining health, it’s music that moves them and keeps their souls from aging another day.

Despite some truly moving stories of these elderly folks, the main joy of the film is in the musical performances. While the group reportedly started out singing older standards and classical songs, they have evolved to a point where they cover modern, even edgy tunes like Coldplay’s Fix You and a Talking Heads tune. The most surprising (and difficult to master) tune they try is Sonic Youth’s Schizophrenia. This is a song that you would never suspect the singers to ever get a grasp on, and when they do, it’s one of the more fulfilling moments of the movie.

The “music videos” might seem a bit over the top and overly campy at first, but once you realize how appropriate the songs are, you’ll be dancing along with these septuagenarians. There’s not enough time to chronicle each and every singer, but the ones that are focused on are unforgettable. Joe Benoit is the current “star” of the show and Fred Knittle is a long-time member who took quite a bit of time off due to medical difficulties. We also meet Eileen Hall, a British import who doesn’t shy away from flirting with the documentary crew whenever she can. There’s no one to dislike here, and, while you can’t really change true life accounts, I find it hard to believe that there’s not even the slightest bit of bickering among the group. A depiction of even the smallest of fights just might have added even more to an already engaging film.

While it isn’t exactly a surprise that things turn tragic near the halfway point, it’s still just as sad and tear-jerking as it would be if we never saw these events coming. Of course, it doesn’t help the audience’s emotions when songs like Nothing Compares 2 U are played right after these sad moments. Sure, this tight-knit group is bound to be as upset as they are, but the editing during these sequences can feel a bit over the top and overly dramatic. Director Stephen Walker’s unsubtleties and annoying narration cause him to come across as grandstanding, in a Nick Broomfield (Kurt & Courtney) sort of way. Still, none of Walker’s methods diminish the film’s emotional impact, since not caring for any of these people is simply not an option. They’re just that loveable.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the image is as sharp and detailed as can be expected from a low-budget documentary. There is some grain and softness, but, again, this isn’t exactly a surprise given the nature of the production.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Engliah, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 track isn’t very dynamic, but does a nice job presenting the music across the entire sound field. The dialogue and lyrics are always crystal clear, and well-integrated into the overall mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Mama, I Want to Sing!, My Sassy Girl, Love’s Unfolding Dream, Bonneville, Under the Same Moon
10 Deleted Scenes
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The extras include Young @ Heart Goes to Hollywood, a five-minute clip showing the group performing in Los Angeles. There’s some nice behind-the-scenes stuff regarding one of their shows, but nothing you can’t get from the feature film.

Also here are 10 deleted scenes that last for nearly 25 minutes. We don’t get anything revelatory, but more of these loveable people is nothing to complain about.

Finishing up the extras are the theatrical trailer and trailers for other Fox DVD releases.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

Sure, they’re not going to sell out arenas or amphitheaters, but one of the hottest music acts out there is the subject of the documentary Young @ Heart. This group of elderly singers captures our hearts and opens our minds to the power of music, and their story is captured wonderfully by director Stephen Walker. Fox’s DVD is a fine effort.


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