The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)

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Released 19-Apr-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 108:55
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Steve Kloves

MRA Entertainment
Starring Jeff Bridges
Beau Bridges
Michelle Pfeiffer
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Dave Grusin

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, near continuous smoking forms plot point
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I allowed some time to elapse between viewing this film and setting out my review because, initially, I didn't quite know how to approach it. This is not a "big" film in any sense. It has no detailed storyline. It lacks a complicated web of characters. The conclusion is somewhat ambiguous, although it is most satisfactory given the nature of the film. It's a musical, but with only a couple of musical set pieces, and they're decidedly low-key. What it has is time to focus on the lives of three individuals, but even here we don't get a "full" view.

    The film opens with Frank (Beau Bridges) and Jack (Jeff Bridges) Baker playing a cocktail lounge piano duet show - their regular professional gig for more than 15 years. The trouble is that the show is becoming dated and repetitive, even down to Frank's little off-the-cuff banter. For Frank, that's just part of his life - a necessary one if he's to continue supporting his family and modest home from the show income. Jack has a totally different outlook on life. Single, with a procession of short-lived relationships, living in a simple city studio apartment, he wonders where life is drifting to. His lack of enthusiasm simply hides his real desire to play serious jazz, and his greater ability than his brother inevitably leads him to feel resentment.

    Failing bookings force them to expand their act to include a singer, and audition number 38 introduces us to Susie Diamond (the sultry Michelle Pfeiffer), a former escort girl with just the right Marilyn Monroe sound to get the fabulous Baker boys well and truly back into the limelight. Right from the start it's clear that Susie's rough background and uncompromising attitude will be more than enough to pry open the differences that exist between the Baker brothers. The sexual tension that develops between her and Jack during the film's second act is palpable and culminates in a gorgeous stage performance of "Making Whoopee" for which the film seems to be best remembered.

    The film is concerned only with the lives and inter-relationships of these three characters. Even Frank's family, who so define his life, are never seen - the closest we get to his family is a nice little scene in his den at home with Jack. The important theme that runs throughout the film is the question of whether one should follow one's dreams or submit to one's responsibilities. There are no great conclusions drawn - this is not a preachy film. It is rather more like a gentle stroll in the company of a few friends.

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Transfer Quality


    The back cover proudly proclaims one of the disc's Special Features is a 4:3 aspect ratio. Just to demonstrate my feelings on the matter, this is in fact my very first DVD featuring a 4:3 version of a widescreen film. And yet, the effect is not bad. I have no knowledge as to whether this is a panned & scanned transfer or simply a full screen image where the mattes have been opened up. The framing of many scenes suggests the possibility of the latter. Of course the image is not 16x9 enhanced, but the story and its tight focus on the three principals allows a standard ratio picture to work acceptably.

    My guess is that most of the faults of the transfer (and, to be fair, they're not overly bad) stem from the age of the original material. The image has a consistent softness to it that is least severe in the few external daylight scenes. Shadow detail is poor but there is no low level noise. There is what might be described as a pasty feel to some of the scenes.

    Colours are generally well rendered, with some examples of fairly high saturation levels, again in the daylight scenes.

    I was very happily surprised to find that the transfer lacks virtually any type of video artefact. The print from which the image came looks close to pristine, meaning no scratches or other marks, and there are no compression artefacts to be seen. What is very odd is the chapter structure of the disc. In fact, the film itself is spread over three titles:- Title #3 runs 51:01 minutes over 8 chapters, Title #4 runs 50:03 minutes over 5 chapters and Title #5 runs 7:51 minutes over 2 chapters (of which Chapter 1 runs a grand total of 10 seconds!!). Unfortunately, the breaks between Titles are anything but smooth - my first impression was that I was watching my first 3 layered DVD! Not only that, but it's impossible to backtrack once you've passed a Title break.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is a single English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio track available. With one broad exception, there is little outstanding to report about the sound. There are no special effects of any note to reproduce, dialogue is clear at all times with no loss of sync and the whole effect is as pristine as the picture.

    The critical exception is in the area of the music, essentially the heart and soul of the film. All of the music is produced with power and depth, with good use made of the surround speakers to create a very definite 3 dimensional feel.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio & Animation

Theatrical Trailer

    Presented in full frame (4:3) format and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Running time is 2:32 minutes. The transfer suffers from minor scratch marks but on the whole is quite watchable. It conveys the tone of the film very well.


    Comprises 11 still photos from various scenes. Of interest is that all the photos are in a widescreen ratio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     While sources are somewhat contradictory, I believe the R1 transfer is a non 16x9 enhanced widescreen version. This would probably tip the balance in favour of that version. Of far more interest is the R2 release, which apparently sports a pristine 16x9 enhanced widescreen picture along with a couple of little 7 minute featurettes. This would appear to offer the best quality version available.


    The Fabulous Baker Boys doesn't compete with big budget effects-laden films. Rather it offers a quiet night's entertainment and some cause for reflection. I found the experience of watching it for the first time (after having listened to the CD soundtrack for years) most worthwhile.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Murray Glase (read my bio)
Sunday, May 26, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K310, using S-Video output
DisplayPioneer SD-T43W1 (125cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D906S
SpeakersRichter Wizard (front), Jamo SAT150 (rear), Yamaha YST-SW120 (subwoofer)

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