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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Baby Boy (2001)

"Why are you so afraid to grow up and be a man?"
- Juanita (A.J. Johnson)

Review By: Dan Heaton  
Published: November 15, 2001

Stars: Tyrese Gibson, A.J. Johnson, Ving Rhames, Taraji P. Henson
Other Stars: Omar Gooding, Snoop Dogg, Tamara LaSeon Bass
Director: John Singleton

MPAA Rating: R for Strong sexuality, language, violence, and some drug use
Run Time: 02h:09m:44s
Release Date: November 06, 2001
UPC: 043396064584
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-AA- A-

DVD Review

Young (20), suave Jody (Tyrese Gibson) rolls down the streets of South Central in a smooth ride and exudes tremendous confidence. His women's clothing business has continued to thrive, and he spends much of his time with the beautiful Yvette (Taraji P. Henson)ˇhis striking girlfriend and the mother of his young son. On the surface, life could not be much better for this arrogant (but likable) figure. It is unfortunate that this image varies drastically from the reality. In actuality, Jody still resides with his motherˇan energetic young woman (33) who possesses a lust for life. Also, his relationship with Yvette faces strain from his child with Peanut (Tamara LaSeon Bass) and his unfaithful actions. What keeps Jody from taking responsibility for his actions and growing up? John Singleton (Boyz N' the Hood, Higher Learning) explores this question in Baby Boyˇan intense, compelling film that takes a critical, in-depth look at the lives of the next adult generation of African-American males.

The story opens with the startling image of Jody resting safely inside a female womb before a violent abortion. This picture provides an essential summary of the events in this film. Jody lives within the easy confines of his mother Juanita's house and does little work beyond the basic essentials. Under Jody's insistence, Yvette has undergone an abortion of a possible second child, and the result is devastating. She pulls herself into a shell and begins sobbing in her bed, but his thoughts are elsewhere. With complete insensitivity, Jody asks to borrow her car. This action showcases the mindset of this sheltered individual who still lacks the drive necessary to grow up and become an adult. Juanita is a strong, compassionate woman who has lost nearly all her patience for her selfish offspring. When she begins dating the imposing Melvin (Ving Rhames), Juanita decides to pursue her own life. This angers Jody and causes a rift that reveals his worst, frustrating tendencies.

Melvin's first appearance immediately reveals his apparent disdain for Jody's way of life. This former street gangster presents a hulking, dominating figure who can stare down almost anyone with a single glance. Without saying a word, Rhames perfectly exerts his will and shows Jody his lack of respect for him. Singleton frames the introduction to deftly present the intriguing relationship between these three characters. When Melvin crosses the frame and blocks the image of Jody, it creatively showcases their personal conflict. Throughout this story, Singleton utilizes this visual blocking and spatial placement within the frame in the manner of such classic films as Citizen Kane. The setting may be completely different, but the reasons for this device are similar in discussing the human relationships without wasting considerable dialogue.

Although Jody is the protagonist of the story, its heart resides in the souls of the two powerful female characters. A.J. Johnson (The Inkwell) shines in the role of Juanitaˇa former "baby mama" who must discover her own life. She truly loves her son, but Jody cannot remain her "baby boy" forever. Johnson conveys an exciting physical presence and emotional energy that creates a fascinating individual. Taraji P. Henson brings a fiery excitement to Yvette's no-nonsense attitude. Her character won't take any flak from Jody, while still loving him dearly. This makes her relations difficult and leads to some heated arguments. Both of these individuals succeed through excellent acting and Singleton's complex, multi-dimensional writing. Everyone in the story faces real problems that will not disappear easily with a single action.

Bringing the film an eerie demeanor, Rodney (Snoop Dogg), Yvette's former boyfriend, enters the picture and wreaks havoc for both Jody and Yvette. Immediately following his release from jail, he moves back into her apartment without asking for approval. This character provides an essential obstacle that could possibly bring Jody to either destruction or understanding. Snoop has recently starred in the horror film Bones and appeared in Training Day with Denzel Washington, and his persona works for this type of character. Rodney may be a cruel individual, but he also connects with the "baby boy" attributes of Jody. While this conflict does feel a bit contrived, it also injects life into the story and presents another example of the troubled young generation.

Baby Boy represents the third John Singleton film to tackle the difficult lives of young people in South Central Los Angeles. Following Boyz N' the Hood and Poetic Justice, it takes another personal, touching look at this environment and the complex individuals who live there. Jody's story contains elements that can speak to everyone about growing up and dealing with responsibilities. Nothing is easy for him, but it may require intense conflict and pain to bring Jody to the other side of adulthood.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Baby Boy's 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer brings the South Central environment to life in fine fashion. Boyz N' the Hood cinematographer Ernest Mills's impressive use of varying shades of color shines on a nearly pristine picture. The images exist in clear focus, which helps to accentuate Singleton's placement of the characters within the frame. The black levels are extremely solid, and the sharp colors leap from the screen. There is almost no grain inherent in the picture, even during the darker scenes. Columbia TriStar deserves a tremendous amount of credit for giving this film the top-notch treatment.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoFrenchno
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The eclectic musical mix booms from the speakers of this impressive 5.1-channel Dolby Digital transfer. Throughout the story, the background music carries the images, and this deep track allows the sounds to flow effectively. This complex presentation helps to create the proper atmosphere for Jody's neighborhood. The ambient noises lurking from elements outside the frame bolsters this realistic feeling. This is especially evident at the sellers' parking lot, where Jody explains his "buyer-seller" ideas. Instead of just focusing on the sounds within the primary moment, this track showcases the extra touches that carry it to the next level.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Higher Learning, Poetic Justice, Boyz n' the Hood
7 TV Spots/Teasers
14 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Writer/director/producer John Singleton
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Music videos for Baby Mama by Three 6 Mafia and Just a Baby Boy by Snoop Doggy Dog featuring Tyrese and Mr. Tan
  2. The Kiki and Boo Show
  3. Outakes and bloopers
Extras Review: This special edition of Baby Boy offers a wealth of extra features that will definitely please fans of the film. The highlight is an insightful commentary from writer/director/producer John Singleton. In a similar vein to his excellent track from Higher Learning, Singleton exudes an laid-back demeanor that makes it easy for us to follow his thoughts. His words are fairly scene-specific, but this works because he explains the subtle elements utilized to move the story forward. Singleton once again talks considerably about the musical selections and their relation to the events in the film. His discussion on the influence of Tupac's music is especially interesting. It's obvious that Singleton really enjoys doing these commentaries, and his enthusiasm helps to produce an interesting feature.

Another excellent inclusion is a collection of 14 deleted scenes and alternate takes that failed to make the final cut. Running around 27 minutes, these moments flesh out the implied elements that were not essential to the overall story. However, most of these scenes would have worked fine and do not feel like throwaways. Jody's inspiration to sell clothes becomes clearer from a conversation with his mother about her mantra. Also, we learn some nice background into Melvin's childhood during a card game with friends. This disc also contains a short section of outtakes and bloopers that presents the enjoyable camaraderie on the set. During one moment, Tyrese continually forgets his lines during a love scene, and this leads to hilarious results. Another odd extra is The Kiki and Boo Showˇa fake talk show with two women discussing a variety of sex elements. They do appear briefly on the television screen in the actual film, but none of their crude comments made it. This silly seven-minute feature presents the highlights of the show.

A Cinemax featurette provides a basic overview of the story in a typical promotional fashion. This 14-minute piece incorporates interviews with Singleton and the main stars combined with clips from the preview trailer. The director describes his basic plan for the story and his reason for casting Tyrese. Presented in a widescreen format, this featurette offers nothing amazing, but it does include a few worthy insights.

Fans of storyboards will enjoy a brief three-scene comparison, which includes comments from storyboard artist Warren Drummond. This segment interests me because it shows several moments that never made it onto the finished product.

The remaining supplements include theatrical trailers, television spots, and selected filmographies for the major stars and director. I found the television commercials intriguing because they show how this film covers several genres. They were able to market the movie separately as an action film, comedy, love story, or suspense thriller. The filmographies are very basic and sorely need biographies to enhance the information contained.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

John Singleton excels in creating accessible, understandable family relationships that defy the usual conventions of mainstream films. Boyz N' the Hood contained a strong bond between Lawrence Fishburne's hard-nosed father and Cuba Gooding Jr.'s likable young man. Their connection was just one of several in the story that offered a surprising level of realism and emotion. Baby Boy follows this path with even more precision and energy. In order to become a man and deal with his girlfriend, Jody must first come to terms with his young mother and her new life. The result is another enjoyable, powerful picture of young life in South Central.

 


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