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DVD Review: Slumdog Millionaire

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Last year, one movie captured America’s hearts and minds. The movie, which was on the path to nowhere (straight-to-DVD release), reached out and was seen by millions of people across the country. The same movie won eight Academy Awards, the most for a single movie since the Lord of the Rings series. That very same movie is now available on Blu-ray and standard DVD. Yes, America, Slumdog Millionaire has just been released for you to own.

Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, and Tanay Chheda), an orphaned kid from the slums of Mumbai. Starting with his early education, and ending with his final question on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, the movie follows Jamal through his life. Told in a series of flashbacks, all of which are tied to the current question posed on the game show, Slumdog Millionaire weaves a tale of love, betrayal, longing, and the story of a hero. This story is bound to move anybody who watches it.

Joining Jamal for most of the story are Latika (Freida Pinto, Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar, and Rubiana Ali) and Salim (Madhur Mittal, Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, and Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala). Latika is the lover and close friend of Jamal, and Salim is Jamal’s brother and best friend. Throughout the movie, the three characters grow up together (which is why there are three actors for each) and learn to love each other. Though they all have distinct personalities, which come into conflict a lot, all three characters are very similar in their actions and mannerisms.

Slumdog Millionaire tells a basic rags-to-riches story, as well as one of redemption and love. What is interesting about this, however, is the fact that the movie itself runs along the same story arc. When Warner Brothers cut their independent film division, it looked like Slumdog Millionaire (which was owned by WB) was destined to go straight to DVD and not be released. Fox Searchlight, seeing the potential in the movie, bought the rights and started to release it slowly. Using their perfected methods, much like they did with Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, Fox released it in certain theaters, slowly expanding. This resulted in a huge buzz being built, and the movie became quite popular. Obviously, this worked, as they were able to get eight Academy Awards out of this; it must have been written.

I find this method of advertising and releasing a product to be very interesting and unique to the film industry. Nowhere else, in video games, music, books, or even most other movie studios, will you see a system in place like the one that Fox has. Three years in a row, they take an independent movie (which the Academy will normally ignore) and get enough support and buzz behind the movie. This buzz not only enlarges the audiences as it slowly spreads across the country, but it also makes voters look at it. I hope that Fox continues to use this operation to get great movies around the country.

Though Slumdog Millionaire is considered an English movie, roughly a third of the actual movie is shot in Hindi. This is due to the fact that director Danny Boyle wanted the movie to be entirely in English, but was unable to find suitable young kids that spoke it well enough. With this in mind, the entire first third of the movie is shown with subtitles, though they are surrounded by a colored background that blends into the movie. I really like the fact that the subtitles do not stick out, yet are easily readable. I am sure that this is a hard thing to achieve, and so I appreciate the efforts that it took. My only concern is that they didn’t explain how the boys learned English (though they could have learned it from tourists that they conned); this detracts from the movie a little.

One of my favorite things about Slumdog Millionaire is the acting. Though the extras seem to want to draw attention to themselves, the main actors were quite good. I really liked how well the little kids acted, and the fact that they were able to maintain the proper character. Had Jamal been anything but happy, hopeful, and idealistic at the start, the movie would not have worked. Had Salim not had desire, lust, but still love in his eyes when young, his older character would not have made any sense. The children played their roles perfectly, and they made sure that the future version of themselves fit, and I really like this.

Though some copies of Slumdog Millionaire do not contain the proper extras, mine came with everything that it should have. This was very important, as I was able to find an extra that I actually enjoyed quite a bit. Deleted scenes are usually something that I can ignore, but in Slumdog Millionaire the deleted scenes are actually quite interesting and a good learning experience. These scenes are fully produced, and are basically the scenes that Boyle wanted left on the cutting room floor. They add a fair bit to the story, are quite long and intensive, and actually draw you into the movie even more. I would argue that these deleted scenes alone are a good reason to buy the DVD, as Fox rentals no longer have extras. If you grab the Blu-ray, you can get the 'anatomy of the toilet' extra, which sounds too great to miss.

One thing that I do not like, but I am sure that most Americas do like, about Slumdog Millionaire, is the actual ending. See, I am not a person for Disney endings. I like sweet endings, but only rarely and only when they fit. I don’t like forced endings, sweet because they 'need' to be. Frankly, I love it when the hero dies, the boy and girl split up, and/or when the dog gets shot for having rabies. With this in mind, the ending (actual story ending, the dance number was sweet) of Slumdog Millionaire, though it is needed in the culture it was produced in, was quite disappointing compared to the rest of the movie.

Overall, I believe that Slumdog Millionaire is a movie that most Americans can enjoy. It is your stereotypical love lost/love found story, and it can speak to everybody. The story is told in an interesting and compelling manner, and it will certainly draw you into it.

Slumdog Millionaire is rated R for some violence, disturbing images and language.

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About Robert M. Barga