FOX recently released The Birdcage on Blu-ray for the first time. For those very few not familiar with the film, a remake of the Franco-Italian La Cage aux Folles, it is the story of two sets of parents, one straight-laced, one flamboyantly gay, brought together by the marriage of their children. The worlds-colliding tale is not particularly original; many other similar stories in various media have been told before and since, but with a truly terrific cast and sharp writing, it’s still a hilarious movie, remembered fondly by most who have seen it, and worthy of periodic re-watches.
Headlining the film are Robin Williams (The Crazy Ones) and Nathan Lane (The Good Wife) as Armand and Albert Goldman, and Gene Hackman (The Royal Tenenbaums) and Dianne Wiest (In Treatment) as Senator Kevin and Louise Keeley. Each of these four are among the best in the business, and in this 1996 release, at the top of their games. None are stock roles, all with dynamic arcs and distinct personalities. All get to do outrageous things, but they aren’t over-the-top as people, with emotional depth and authentic pathos. They are the main draw of The Birdcage and why it works so well, even with a story that isn’t all that ground-breaking.
The couple getting married are played by Dan Futterman (Judging Amy) and Calista Flockhart (Brothers & Sisters), and while their impending nuptials may be the catalyst of the tale, they are overshadowed by the older actors. Both actors serve the purpose they need to serve, and sparkle in little bits, but they just aren’t the focus, and that’s fine.
The supporting cast includes Hank Azaria (The Simpsons) and Christine Baranski (The Good Wife). Neither of them were big names when The Birdcage came out, but have since established respectable careers for themselves since. Watching them complement the stars of this movie, quietly stealing scenes, it’s easy to see even back in the 1990s that they would go some place.
Perhaps more vital than the stars of The Birdcage is the environment in which it takes place. Homosexuality still carried a lot of taboo two decades ago, which is only now being melted away. It was a strange and alien lifestyle to many, and The Birdcage makes a certain type of gay man accessible to the masses. While focusing on flaming and feminine, playing to a bit of a stereotype, it also communicates that these guys are real people, too, putting faces on the type. It made many in the audience rethink their preconceived notions, and thus serves as an important work in our culture.
After praising all of this, you might expect an impressive, extras-laden release when the title finally gets a Blu-ray edition, especially considering the film topped the box office for three weeks, making plenty of money, and received favorable reviews. You would be wrong.
This single-disc only has the theatrical trailer, with no other bonus features. The only thing that makes this hurt a little less is that the previous DVD edition didn’t have anything, either, but the mistake should have been corrected for this new version.
As far as how the film looks and sounds, this is a decent release. The audio, which does boast a terrific soundtrack, is well-mixed and seems sharp. It is presented in 5.1 surround sound, and the more energetic scenes, especially those in the club, make good use of this. The video is slightly weaker, much better defined that in standard definition, but still not a true high-def experience. Details aren’t as clear as I’d like, but for the most part, the quality isn’t too dated.
The Birdcage is available now on Blu-ray.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00IZ7ZC3A]