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Lee Daniels’ The Butler Blu-ray Review

The Butler Blu-ray

Despite an uneven script, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is a poignant film.

Based on the life of White House butler Eugene Allen, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” chronicles the life of fictional White House butler (Cecil Gaines) from his childhood to 2008 (the year Barack Obama was elected President). As the film follows Gaines through history, key historical events, people, and issues such as slavery, the civil rights movement, segregation, MLK Jr., the Black Panthers, the Vietnam War, and South African Apartheid are touched upon. The heart of the film, however, is about Gaines, his wife (Gloria), and his two sons (Louis and Charlie). Charlie, in particular, plays a pivotal role in the film as an outspoken activist who doesn’t always get along with his father.    

While it’s undeniably similar in structure to “Forrest Gump,” viewers shouldn’t hold that fact against “The Butler.” Yes, Danny Strong’s screenplay is a bit of an overly ambitious mess that tries to incorporate too many ideas and historical references for its own good, but the overstuffed screenplay serves a purpose. Without everything that is included in the final cut, the impact of the story would have been lost. “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is engaging because the film really shows viewers how much change and progress that has been made in the United States over the course of history. Yes, that history is streamlined and rushed on screen, but you can only devote so much time to each idea in a single film.

One of the biggest talking points about “The Butler” has been the eclectic cast. Forest Whitaker (Cecil Gaines) and rising star David Oyelowo (Charlie) are the two stand-outs here as they have the most material to work with. It doesn’t hurt that their scenes together prove to be the most electrifying moments of the film. Oprah Winfrey has been receiving a lot of attention for her comeback role as Gloria, but, to be honest, I thought she tried way too hard. She doesn’t deliver a bad performance, but it’s not exactly on the level of her work in “The Color Purple.” The rest of the cast features A-Listers such as Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., John Cusack, Jane Fonda and Terrence Howard to name a few. Perhaps the film’s strangest stunt casting is Alan Rickman who portrays Ronald Reagan. Not only does he not look like him, but he certainly doesn’t sound like him either. It’s very odd and distracting to say the least.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? Lee Daniels’ stylistic visuals look incredibly sharp in hi-def.

Audio Track: 5.1 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? I didn’t detect any issues here. The DTS track was crisp and clear from start to finish.

Extras:
* DVD copy and Ultraviolet digital copy.
* The Weinstein Company trailers.
* 9 deleted scenes.
* A music video for Gladys Knight and Lenny Kravitz song “You and I Ain’t Nothin’ No More.”
* An amusing 5 minute gag reel.
* “The Original Freedom Riders”- A short nearly 4 minute featurette about the Freedom Riders.
* “Lee Daniels’ The Butler: An American Story (Behind-The Scenes Documentary)”- A solid featurette that contains film clips, cast and crew interviews, set footage, and discussions about history, the script and characters.

Overall Thoughts: “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” is not without its flaws, but writer Danny Strong and director Lee Daniels deserve credit for crafting an important film.

January 13, 2014 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , ,

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