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Image Entertainment presents

Candide (2004)

"We'll do the best we know/We'll build our house and chop our wood/And make our garden grow."- Candide (Paul Groves)

Stars: Kristin Chenoweth, Patti LuPone, Paul Groves, Sir Thomas Allen
Other Stars: Janine LaManna, Jeff Blumenkrantz
Director: Lonny Price

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for adult themes
Run Time: 01:56:14
Release Date: 2005-05-17
Genre: musical comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- CC-B+ D-


DVD Review

Leonard Bernstein's Candide was one of its composers more troubled works. After the relative failure of its Broadway debut in 1956, it has seen multiple revisions over the years, seeking to make music and book match up more harmoniously. Director Lonny Price now has his own go at it, picking and choosing bits from previous versions and adding his own touches in this staged concert version that lays on the "wacky" humor, but leaves out the heart.

The story is simple enough; in the 18th century, Candide (Paul Groves), a bastard taken in by his uncle, falls in love with his cousin, the beautiful Cunegonde (Kristin Chenoweth). Their teacher, Dr. Pangloss (Sir Thomas Allen), has taught them that this is the best of all possible worlds, and their gullible belief in that platitude is repeatedly tested through war, gang rape, murder, piracy, and a host of other misfortunes. Candide is banished for his love of Cunegonde, and from that point on, logic flies out the window and the plot veers crazily around the map, with characters dying, returning, and otherwise doing the unexpected.

Price's problem is that he apparently doesn't trust the show to speak for itself, tossing in a neverending string of ill-judged, moronic gags, such as a Donald Trump impersonator as head of the Spanish Inquisition ("you're fired"—cue riotous laughter); picking a beanpole-framed, goofy looking actor as the narcissistic Maximillian; a priest as homosexual molester gag; Candide having a copy of the cast recording of West Side Story among his things when he is banished, and so on. It gets wearying after a while, and not very funny, not to mention distracting. The audience laps it all up, sad to say. The jokes occasionally undercut the performances; when Groves performs It Must Be So after his banishment, it's a touching song, performed beautifully. But then we get the copy of West Side Story tossed in, yuk yuk, and the emotional quality of the moment is lost.

The performances are solid, given the direction to be over the top. Paul Groves plays Candide in full dumbbell mode, but his singing belies the blank-faced stupidity with which he has to play the character during the speaking parts. Kristin Chenoweth has a fine time as Cunegonde, and her natural comedic gifts serve her well, though the character's gleeful sluttiness provides little reason to find her as appealing as Candide does. Patti LuPone is a performer I've never been especially fond of, and she's turned loose by Price like she was in his concert production of Sweeney Todd. Her entrance is milked for all the hammy, irritating diva "comedy" it can stand, but thankfully it gets better from there.

Price may have added another entry to the list of Candide productions out there, but he, like others before him, has fallen short in his quest for the best of all possible adaptations. When the final number, Make Our Garden Grow, rolls around, it should be a cathartic moment. Here, my feeling was relief that the show was blessedly, finally over.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen the image quality is the victim of a mixed progressive-interlaced transfer, displaying blurring and extensive combing as a result. While not so bad as to be unwatchable (though it isn't far off), it is annoying. At least the colors were bold and solid.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Three choices for the viewer here: a DTS 5.1 track, a Dolby 5.1 track, and a Dolby 2.0 track. I found that the DTS track exhibited occasional pops, but it was by far the most vivid and punchy of the three. The two Dolby tracks exhibited none of the popping of the DTS track, but also lacked its other qualities as well, sounding somewhat muted in comparison.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Liner notes by director Lonny Price
Extras Review: None, aside from an insert essay by director Price raving about the experience of directing the production.

Extras Grade: D-

Final Comments

A problematic production, with an equally problematic DVD, makes for a generally unpleasant experience all around.

Jeff Wilson 2005-06-22