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Blu-ray Review: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

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The Film

The product of a writers' strike time hole and talent to burn, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog took the Internet by storm in 2008 when it debuted online as a three-part serial. The rabid Joss Whedon fanbase certainly helped propel the 40-minute musical into the web consciousness, but the snappy writing by Joss and brothers Jed and Zack Whedon, as well as Maurissa Tancharoen, helped it break out of its Internet confines, earning it a spot on Time’s Best TV list without having ever appeared on TV.

Whedon and company embraced a new distribution model without skimping on the quality, and the result is a solid piece of work that doesn’t look like it belongs inside a three-inch YouTube window — as the new Blu-ray release clearly attests to.

Neil Patrick Harris proves himself a winning contradiction — the meek antihero — as Billy, a mild-mannered guy who runs a basement video blog where his true self, the villain Dr. Horrible, can emerge. Dr. Horrible wants nothing more than to get into the Evil League of Evil, but he may have a bigger problem with his love life, as he can’t get up the nerve to talk to Penny (Felicia Day), the pretty girl at the laundromat.

Making matters worse is the meddlesome and smarmy superhero Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion), who Dr. Horrible inadvertently introduces to Penny. As the two begin to date, Dr. Horrible is forced to execute dastardly and dastardlier schemes.

Dr. Horrible’s inversion of superhero structure isn’t particularly clever on its own merits, but Whedon does an admirable job revealing elements of Dr. Horrible’s character that aren’t immediately apparent, and the blend of comedy and tragedy that results covers the gamut of emotions effectively in a very short time span.

Best of all are the tuneful songs by Jed and Joss that are brimming with hidden hilarity amid Stephen Sondheim-like layering. The music has a spontaneous feel initially, as if the songs were just whipped up right before shooting, but the melodies remain in your head for a surprisingly long time.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog transcends its humble roots and is the kind of pop culture sensation that actually deserves the attention it gets.

The Blu-ray Disc

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The picture is consistently clear and sharp, with fairly strong color definition and consistency throughout. Shot in high definition digital video, the image is free from any damage. Occasional scenes that feature characters being backlit have a noticeable drop in definition, particularly in facial detail, but this certainly represents a leap in quality from DVD and even more so from the streaming or downloaded web versions.

The audio is presented in a 5.1 DTS-HD mix that doesn’t have a lot of heft, but doesn’t have much opportunity for it, given the source materials. It is a clean, bright mix that does the songs and their frequent overlapping lyrics justice.

Special Features

All of the special features included on the DVD are ported over and remain in standard def, including the excellent "Commentary! The Musical" track, which features the cast and crew engaging in an entirely new musical on the vagaries of film production and commentary recording. Also included are a standard commentary track, a making-of featurette and fan Evil League of Evil application videos. Other short outtake clips that were included as Easter eggs on the DVD are included in the menu lineup. The disc also contains the teaser trailer.

The Bottom Line

Sometimes, one can have lower standards when looking for Internet-based entertainment, but Dr. Horrible is an absolute pleasure by any standard.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.