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Rent: 2-Disc Special Edition

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: B+
Video/Audio/Extras: B+/A+/A-

Directed by: Chris Columbus
Written by: Stephen Chbosky
Based on the musical by: Jonathan Larson
Produced by: Chris Columbus, Michael Barnathan, Robert DeNiro, Mark Radcliffe and Jane Rosenthal
Starring: Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, Jesse L. Martin, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Rosario Dawson, Idina Menzel
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it

After the success of Moulin Rouge! and Chicago, it was expected that musicals would be making a comeback. However, when The Phantom of the Opera, Rent and the best film of 2005, The Producers failed to make past $55 million domestically, this genre is now in trouble of disappearing again. The aforementioned films flopping really surprised me, especially since they have such big fan bases. Timing might have been an issue, though. The Phantom of the Opera was fifteen years old when the film version was released and made $51 million, Rent was nine years old and made $29 millions and The Producers was four years old and made $20 million. If they made a new film version of 42nd Street, would that make a whole lot of money. Possibly, but that Rent flopped, really surprised me.

Rent is a version of the classic opera, La Boheme for the MTV Generation. It chronicles one full year in the life of seven bohemian friends. Mark (Anthony Rapp) is an aspiring documentary filmmaker whose girlfriend (Idina Menzel) has left him for a female lawyer (Tracie Thomas). A musician (Adam Pascal) who was contracted with AIDS starts to fall in love with the stripper (Rosario Dawson) who lives in the apartment below his. A gay teacher (Jesse L. Martin) also falls in love, but with a drag queen (Wilson Jermaine Heredia) who also has AIDS. All of them try to pay their rent, which is being asked for by an old friend (Taye Diggs) who has gone on to the dark, corporate side of the world.

By bringing Jonathan Larson's hit play to the big screen, Chris Columbus has managed to make it accessible to everyone and he does it successfully. He recruits most of the same actors who played in the original Off-Broadway production of Rent nine years ago. They all due a good job due to being so used to their roles. Newcomers Roasario Dawson and Tracie Thomas also do fantastic work as well. The songs are sung wonderfully, especially the show's haunting theme, "Seasons of Love" and the very fun and lively "La Vie Boheme." Sony Pictures has also done a very nice transfer for the DVD. The video is clear in some parts, however dark scenes don't appear so well. Overall, they do a really good job. Sony doing a terrible job at audio work on a musical is like Pixar providing a really bad transfer for one of their animated films. It would be a complete sin and very unlikely that that would happen. Fortunately, the audio is top-notch and the music is heard wonderfully and perfectly.

Even though this DVD is a two-disc set, Sony didn't plant that many special features on them. However, what we get shows that sometimes quality is better than quantity. The only extra on Disc One is an audio commentary with director Chris Columbus and the cast of the film. Even though some silent spots occur, they decide give a lot of great comments and they are obviously passionate of Jonathan Larson's work. On Disc Two, the first extras are some deleted musical numbers. Like the songs in the film, the ones deleted are also great and Columbus & Company give great explanations as to why they were taken out. The best extra is a two-hour documentary on Jonathan Larson. It details how he became interested in musical theatre, the other plays he created, how Rent came to be and how it grew in popularity and the making of the film. This is one of the best entertainment-related documentaries I have ever seen and I really hope it qualifies for next year's Academy Awards.

The disc ends with some advertisements. We first get public service announcements for the Jonathan Larson Association and the Marfan Association. There are also previews for The Benchwarmers, Marie-Antoinette, The Da Vinci Code, Fun with Dick and Jane, Memoirs of a Geisha and other Sony films. For some reason (and other studios are following suit), Sony didn't provide the brilliant theatrical trailer to Rent. Headlined by a great commentary and a brilliant documentary, this special edition of Rent is a must-buy for any fan of the show, the film and musicals in general.

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