Great music and great laughs culminate in this winning doc*mentary.
  • OVERALL
    4.0
    GREAT
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
Great music and great laughs culminate in this winning doc*mentary.
THE BAD
I did expect a higher quantity of supplemental material.
THE FEATURE
What can you say about Dave Chappelle? The over-the-top comedian once known for supporting roles in film and Half Baked became an overnight success with Comedy Central's Chappelle Show. With such overwhelming popularity and sudden pressure, Chappelle vanished one day to Africa, and his show was put on hiatus. Aside from the occasional article I've read on this, I have never been 100% sure as to why Chappelle abandoned his show for this retreat. From what I have gathered, the comedian became too deep in his dream. The idea of entertaining and pleasing fans was supposedly being upstaged by the corporate politics of running a television show.

Based on this information, it comes as no surprise that Chappelle orchestrated a block party. After signing a multi-million dollar contract with Comedy Central, Chappelle threw together a hip-hop concert on the streets of Brooklyn. While kept secret to avoid an uncontrollable crowd, his concert went down as one of the hottest, most-appreciated events in music history. The recent doc*mentary, Dave Chappelle's Block Party chronicles this event.

The doc*mentary lacks linear narration as it jumps between the concert in Brooklyn, and Chappelle's exploits prior to the show. Since Chappelle was raised in the Dayton, OH area, he goes to Dayton in person with a handful of "golden tickets". These tickets give select individuals the opportunity to attend the block party at no charge. After Dave Chappelle approaches the unsuspecting citizens of Dayton, we see a group of people with little in common: white and black, fans of Chappelle and non-fans, elderly and young. However, the one thing they have in common is the desire to get together for a friendly barbeque and concert. Dave Chapelle makes this happen.

The concert itself is one of the more impressive musical events laid to film since Wattstax or Woodstock. The line-up includes Erykah Badu, Kanye West, and the reunited Fugees. In between the footage of Chappelle recruiting fans and organizing his concert, the audience is treated to these performances. However, this is not just a cut and dry concert film. The camera manages to go in the audience, onstage, and behind the stage. The viewer encounters this show from every possible perspective. What makes this entertaining is that every perspective is enjoyable. The fans in the audience rejoice at seeing their favorite artists for free. As for backstage, there is no difference. Corporate players and barking stage managers are absent from the scene. Instead we see a group of musical talents enjoying one another's company, and cherishing this get-together.

It is the feeling of human sincerity that makes Dave Chappelle's Block Party a terrific doc*mentary. The difference between this concert and any other concert is that it is not a concert. As the title specifies, it is a party. Aggressive security guards do not accompany the artists. There are no vendors selling overpriced t-shirts and cups of beer. The famous singers even mingle with audience members. A particular scene in which Wyclef Jean interacts backstage with a Dayton college marching band is among the many poignant scenes here.

Director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), aside from an amusing opening dance sequence, does not rely on slick camera positioning. The doc*mentary is shot straightforward, and on the whim with little reliance on stationary interviews or staging. Gondry shoots exactly what he sees, and we the viewers are fortunate to see the exact same thing. This is the story of a comedian that feels the need to give back to his fans. His block party is portrayed as an event that throws labeling out of the window just so fans can enjoy themselves. Chappelle himself is clearly yearning for a good old-fashioned time as he pops up periodically enjoying the show from the tops of buildings or within the audience. This is a doc*mentary that has it all from great music to great comedy.
THE EXTRAS
Ohio Players

This is a compilation of footage deleted from the film that was obviously cut for time reasons. If not for time constraints, I do not understand why any filmmaker would axes this footage. This follows the various Dayton, Ohio natives during their trip to New York. It also includes interview segments of the Ohio players expressing the great time they had at the block party. Watching the common folk in the film express their excitement is one of the best things about the doc*mentary. This extra reel of footage is much more of this, and is a great supplement to the film.

September in Brooklyn: The Making of Block Party

Being that Block Party is a doc*mentary and it goes behind the scenes, this isn't necessarily a "making-of" for the film. It is instead more explicit detail about the organization of the concert. However, director Michel Gondry does appear here for commentary after not appearing in front of the camera during the doc*mentary. This is a great doc*mentary about a doc*mentary.
THE VIDEO
Anamorphic Widescreen. The picture quality is obviously not crystal clear as this is a doc*mentary. Gondry's direction is very much in cinema verite fashion with the quick, out-of-focus zooms and shakiness. However, as I mentioned, this is a doc*mentary. One cannot be too picky when they are fully aware of the genre.
THE AUDIO
5.1 Dolby Surround. The musical acts: out of this world. The songs are recorded with precision and really rocked my speaker system. However, the dialogue portions of the doc*mentary suffer. While the musical acts are extracted from concert recording equipment, the rest is taken from on-camera mics and boom mics. One may need to keep their thump on the volume to hear dialogue that fades in and out from the constant movement.
THE PACKAGE
Standard DVD keep case. The cover art is very well done and resembles poster art. Pictures of the artists and Chappelle are displayed in pure psychedelic fashion.
THE FINAL WORD
Dave Chappelle's Block Party is probably one of the better times I have had watching a movie this year. The concept is simple, and there is no dramatic staging. Michel Gondry films everything as it is with no narration to sway the audience. Watching people from all walks of life come together to enjoy fantastic music, food, and socializing is a real treat. I highly recommend renting this film, or even purchasing it if you are a fan of Chappelle or the hip-hop genre.

Questions? Comments? Just want to talk movies? Drop me a line at dodd@movieweb.com

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