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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Funny Lady (1974)

"There's an act in there somewhere."
- Fanny Brice (Barbra Streisand)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: February 06, 2002

Stars: Barbra Streisand, James Caan
Other Stars: Omar Sharif, Roddy McDowall, Ben Vereen, Carole Wells, Larry Gates, Eugene Troobnick, Heidi O'Rourke, Royce Wallace, Lilyan Chauvin, Samantha Huffaker, Matt Emery
Director: Herbert Ross

Manufacturer: IFPI
MPAA Rating: PG for (language)
Run Time: 02h:17m:53s
Release Date: February 05, 2002
UPC: 043396066762
Genre: musical

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B-A-A- D+

DVD Review

Of the thousands of films I've seen in my lifetime, there are those which leave an indelible mark on my cinematic consciousness. Even decades since I've last seen them, scenes from What's Up Doc and Owl and the Pussycat remain as clear as day. Their star, Barbra Streisand, burst onto the screen in 1968, taking the movie industry by storm as Ziegfeld Follies starlet Fanny Brice, stealing the Best Actress Oscar® in Funny Girl. Directed by William Wylder, the screen adaptation of her hit Broadway play made her an instant favorite, showcasing her many talents, and range of acting abilities. With the success of that film, a sequel was inevitable, and in 1975 Streisand reprised her role, picking up the story years later, when the luster had worn off her marriage to Nick, and the economic downturns were putting a damper on the industry she had come to call her own. Herbert Ross, who had directed the musical numbers for the original, this time takes full reign, and the score features many songs written by Billy Rose—the real Fanny Brice's third husband—along with new works by Cabaret songsmiths John Kander and Fred Ebb. Funny Lady would be nominated for five Academy Awards®, including best cinematography, costume design and song. The film opens on the final performance of Fanny's current production, with the cast about to head out into an uncertain future. Funding is hard to come by, and the big financiers aren't putting up for more shows. As the curtain falls, Fanny looks for her husband in the audience—the relationship has been strained, and the wide-eyed spell of love that brought the two together has tarnished over time. In her dressing room she is greeted by flowers, but they provide only temporary joy, as they are accompanied by divorce papers. Though her façade is one of easy acceptance, deep down she is still in love with this man, and the proof that their relationship is over is inwardly crushing. Still, she has her spark, and defiantly presses onward, taking on her friend and fellow actor Bobby Moore as her secretary. Into her life barges Billy Rose, a songwriter and an ambitious, but inexperienced producer who needs Fanny for his production, and while she wants to resist, she finds herself going along for the ride—and what a ride it becomes. Billy's dominance and extravagance set up an opening night best forgotten, where everything that could go wrong does. Still, Fanny is unable to walk away from him, especially when Billy steps off his high horse and allows her to give him the advice he so desperately needs. Success is only a matter of time, as is her falling for him, but in the back of her mind Nick is always there, a ghost neither can shake, and the world at the top leaves no room for third parties.The throwbacks to Funny Girl are all there, from the flashback montage in the opening credits, to the yellow roses and People refrains, even another technical wonder in the lip synced plane sequence. However, like many others, the sequel simply can't live up to the original, though it does offer the not quite so happily-ever-after that a starry-eyed Jewish girl from Henry Street could never dream of. Funny Lady contains all the Barbra-isms audiences have come to love: the quivering lip, the hammed up and sometimes bawdy comedy, snappy dialogue, and some sentimental moments, but with the passage of time the weaknesses in the script show these for what they are: highlights in an uneven attempt to recapture the magic. There are plenty of great scenes where the chemistry between Streisand and Caan works wonderfully, with both actors in top form; but there are also those where the scenes feel forced, which isn't helped by some awkward jumps in the story takes. The staging is grand, and there are numerous times where the mishaps of the productions are good for a laugh. The musical numbers come off without a hitch, and are not quite as integral to the story as the first film. Despite Streisand's performance, which is wonderful, the film left me somewhat melancholy, longing for the rose-colored glasses through which I'd seen this in my youth.

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


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The cover indicates both widescreen and pan & scan versions, but there is (thankfully) only an anamorphic widescreen transfer included here, which was downconverted from high definition. The image, outside the credit sequences, is near spotless, with a very fine grain rendered in an extremely filmlike manner. Colors are warm and rich, detail is good without being enhanced, and black levels are solid with decent shadow detail. There is little to find fault with in his transfer, outside the slightest bit of shimmer in a few places. Another fine Columbia effort.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in either discreet three-channel Dolby Digital English or stereo French. There are no technical deficiencies here, with the front soundstage being modestly used without any gimmickry. Dialogue is clear and concise, and the musical sections widen the stereo field with the orchestra reaching to its extremes. The overall tone is pleasant and warm, with no excessive sibilance or brashness.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 8 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portugese, Chinese, Korean, Thai with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring For Pete's Sake
Production Notes
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Song Highlights
Extras Review: Not a whole lot in the extras department, which consist primarily of the song highlights section that jumps directly to the scenes containing some of the more popular numbers:More Than You Know, Paper Moon, I Found a Million Dollar Baby..., Great Day, How Lucky Can You Get, Isn't This Better?, If I Love Again, and Let's Hear It For Me.Filmographies for Herbert Ross, Barbra Streisand, and James Caan are included, as is a trailer for Streisand's For Pete's Sake, which is pretty spoiler laden. The insert contains production details.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

While it could never stand up to the original, Funny Lady does deliver some memorable moments and another showcase for Streisand. Fans of Funny Girl may be in for a letdown as the script just doesn't quite pull it together. The performances, while good, just don't have the magic, but Columbia has done the film justice, with a nice transfer.


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