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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Brand New Day

September 28th, 2011

Brand New Day - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Brand New Day started as a Bran Nue Dae, a musical in its native Australia before being made into a film there. It was released in limited theaters here under its original name, but failed to make much impact at the box office. Now it has been released on DVD and Blu-ray under a slightly different name, but will a new name help its fortunes? Was it unfairly ignored before? Or is something lost on route from Australia to here?

The Movie

The film is set in Australia in 1969 in a small aboriginal town. Willie is a young man who is planning on attending a seminary and becoming a priest. However, he has un-priest-like thoughts about Rosie and on his last day before he leaves, he asks her out on a date, but she ends up going with Lester after Willie arrives late for their date.

While at boarding school, Willie can't help but think of Rosie and that's interfering with his studies. Father Benedictus has faith that he will overcome his weaknesses. But when he and some of his friends get caught stealing food from the kitchen, he decides that being a priest isn't for him, and runs away trying to get home.

While on the run, Willie meets up with Uncle Tadpole, one of a group of homeless men living on the streets, who is actually his uncle. He decides to help him get home to Broome, but his plan is a little unorthodox. (It involves two hippies, Annie and Slippery, and getting hit by their VW van.) Uncle Tadpole exaggerates his injuries in order to guilt the two hippies into driving him and Willie to Broome.

However, it's a long journey, and Father Benedictus is determined to get him back.

This film earned mixed reviews and that's an apt result. There are quite a few parts of the film that work, including several really good music numbers. (Jessica Mauboy is a particularly strong singer.) It does touch on some serious issues like the bigotry the aboriginals have had to deal with, and still do in many cases. There are some great performances in the film, which may or may not include Geoffrey Rush, depending on your point of view. (Some have accused him of overacting in this film, but given the spectacle of some of the dance numbers, this is not out of place.)

On the other hand, there are some problems that prevent it from reaching its potential. A few too many songs that are just not catchy, or forgettable fluff. The overall love triangle setup is just not as engaging as your average romantic comedy. And too often it the central character feels like he's sleepwalking his way through the story. Because of this, while the film might win over fans of the genre, it won't convert those that are ambivalent about musicals and / or romantic comedies.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray. The Blu-ray does look and sound really good, given the film's budget. The film only cost $7 million in Australia dollars, which works out to about $7 million American. The film's color are bright, there's excellent fine detail, strong shadows, etc. Some scenes have too much grain for my taste, but that's my only real complaint. The sound is also a real asset with clear dialogue and a lot of use of the surround sound speakers during the many musical numbers. Outside of the musical numbers, the audio track is a lot less dynamic, but still good. Finally, the Blu-ray only costs $3 more, which is good for this type of release.

The Verdict

Brand New Day is a good musical that should please fans of the genre, but it is not a great one. It's worth checking out if you are among that group, but with a featureless DVD and Blu-ray, a rental will suffice.

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Filed under: Video Review, Bran Nue Dae