The Birdcage (1996)

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Released 19-Apr-2000

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer-1.78:1 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 surround
Main Menu Animation
Booklet
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 104:06 (Case: 119)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:53) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Mike Nichols
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Robin Williams
Gene Hackman
Nathan Lane
Dianne Wiest
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $29.95 Music Jonathan Tunick


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.0 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.0 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.0 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.0 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
German for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Swedish
Norwegian
Finnish
Polish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

   The Birdcage is one of those comedies I am sure some people with love and others will hate. I thoroughly enjoy this movie every time I watch it, and it was no different this time - except it looked and sounded better than ever by dint of it now being on DVD (naturally!)

    For starters, we have a gay couple comprised of Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Robin Williams (Armand) has a unique gift, for he can be both outlandish with his talent, or he can be subtle and understated. It is the latter quality which he brings to The Birdcage, with only small offerings of his more traditional high-energy humour, and he has a charm which endears him in every movie he appears in. Put him alongside the limp-wristed extrovert Albert (Nathan Lane), who screams when he damages toast, and you have a recipe for some outrageous comedy which director Mike Nichols stirs with an expert wooden spoon.

    In a nutshell, this unlikely couple must pretend to be man and woman to receive the parents of Armand's son's fiancé as guests for a first encounter. For, in a previous state of mind Armand did produce a son with a woman. The real twist is that the father of his son's fiancé is no less than Senator Kevin Keeley, played wonderfully by Gene Hackman. Not only must the fact that Armand is gay be hidden, but his partner Albert transforms into a woman in a way which the Senator finds appealing. A wig and and a dress is all that is needed for Albert, who given his nature is overly feminine anyway. The Senator mistakes this ludicrous man as being a stout, moral (if homely) looking woman and takes a liking to her. Mingle in an absolutely fall-over funny performance from Hank Azaria (who steals any scene he is in) and the stage is set for a very entertaining two hours or so.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a very good transfer, and is definitely to my tastes.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    Whilst not especially sharp or detailed, the image does have a wonderful film-like quality. It is my experience that super-sharp, highly detailed images can and usually do suffer complications in the form of artefacts; I will always prefer a smooth, softer image like the one offered here. There is no low level noise whatsoever in the image, giving it a very clean look. Shadow detail was good though not exceptional.

    Now a movie like this demands strong colours, and that is exactly what it gets. Full  tones, with no oversaturation make for a stunning presentation. The purposefully outrageous look of the movie benefits greatly from the clear, noise-free rendering of strong primaries. Skin tones are handled exceptionally well, which would delight the hilarious Hank Azaria as he spends most of the movie near-naked.

    There were no significant MPEG artefacts to speak of, nor were there any film-to-video artefacts. Film artefacts were also notably absent for the most part.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place at 54:53 minutes, during Chapter 14. Whilst it is not particularly distracting in itself, it does result in a type of MPEG artefact known as the "Gibb Effect" where for 6 seconds after the layer change the corner of a wall shimmers with compression problems, and this makes the change stand out.

Audio

    The packaging has a hard time describing the various soundtracks on this disc. To set the record straight, there are five. They are English Dolby Digital 5.0, French Dolby Digital 5.0, German Dolby Digital 5.0, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.0. The packaging incorrectly states that the Italian soundtrack is in 5.0. However, to complicate matters further, all five soundtracks are listed with the 5.1 symbol. Oh dear, what a mess. I listened to the English soundtrack, which for reasons better known to the menu designers is not the default on my system - I had to specify which language the menu should appear in before I began.

    Dialogue was for the most part clear, with the occasional distortion whenever Nathan Lane shrieked louder than usual. Whether this is the disc, or the internal Dolby Digital decoder on my Panasonic player I am not certain because this centre channel problem has cropped up in a few of my other discs but has not been reported by other reviewers. Hmm.

    Lip syncing was not a problem during the movie.

    The music is as outlandish as the visuals, and is perfect. It is predominantly a collection of very energetic rhythmic dance tracks and I often found my foot tapping to the beat whilst watching the movie. The sound is full and very clean, with heaps of energy coming from the strong bass.

    The surround channels were used well for the music, which often filled the entire room, and for ambience. Not aggressive, just tasteful.

    Have no fear that the .1 channel is missing. This soundtrack makes excellent use of low bass as and when the need arises. As the subwoofer runs directly from my main speakers, the absence or presence of this channel is totally irrelevant to me; others with dedicated amplification sourcing the subwoofer may have different experiences.

    The Italian 5.1 mix sounded no different from all the 5.0 mixes, so it must be concluded that either the .1 channel is silent on the Italian mix, or included in the 5 channels on the other mixes.

Extras

Menu

    The themed menu is very well done, though the animation enhancement is very minor and consists of the "Birdcage" logo subtly flashing.

Theatrical Trailer (2:11)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, this trailer is 16x9 enhanced and presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 . It is very good, and one of the better looking and sounding trailers I have seen in a while. It is also very funny, and gives a good sense of the movie's intentions.

Booklet

   Of limited appeal, but nonetheless a good read. These notes, in my opinion, should be on the disc.

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;     I would myself consider the addition of a Pan & Scan version on the R1 release reason enough to prefer the R4 version, however the extra resolution and clarity of PAL has already tipped the scales.

Summary

    A very, very funny movie indeed. Robin Williams is, as usual, brilliant, as is the rest of the cast. Well worth a watch.

    The video is very good.

    The audio is very good.

    A great trailer does not make great extras...

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Paul Cordingley (bio)
Sunday, January 30, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic A-350A, using S-Video output
DisplayPioneer SD-T43W1 16:9 RPTV. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player.
AmplificationSony STR DE-525 5x100 watts Dolby Pro-Logic / 5.1 Ready Receiver; 4 x Optimus 10-band Graphic EQ
SpeakersCentre: Sony SS-CN35 100 watt; Main & Surrounds: Pioneer CS-R390-K 150-watt floorstanders; Subwoofer: Optimus 100-watt passive

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