DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Do The Right Thing, Blu-ray (1989/2009)

It very well may be Spike Lee’s best work, and it’s an often riveting and highly entertaining character study.

Published on July 13, 2009

Do The Right Thing, Blu-ray (1989/2009)

Do The Right Thing, Blu-ray (1989/2009)

Starring: Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Spike Lee
Director: Spike Lee
Studio: Universal 61107959 [Release date: June 30, 09]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9, 1080p HD
Audio: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1; English, Spanish DTS 5.1, English DD 2.0
Extras: Featurettes, Deleted and Extended Scenes, Audio Commentary, Storyboards, BD Live Content
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Feature Length: 120 minutes
Rating: ***

Do The Right Thing
in 1989 offered one of the most original perspectives on race relations ever captured on film, and garnered two Academy Award nominations in the process, including a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. While the movie is perhaps director Spike Lee’s most cohesive film ever, it also didn’t hurt that Lee had cast a dynamic and diverse ensemble that included the likes of Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and a breakout debut performance by Rosie Perez. Spike Lee stars as Mookie, the pizza delivery man who works for Sal (Danny Aiello), whose pizza shop is located in the mostly black Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. On the hottest day of the summer, and in the middle of an extended heat wave, an argument breaks out at the pizzeria concerning Sal’s “Wall of Fame,” which contains pictures of prominent New Yorkers and the like who’ve dined there. Of course, the wall doesn’t happen to contain any pictures of black people, which far and away make up the bulk of Sal’s clientele. Mookie gets caught in the middle, and Spike Lee does a remarkable job (as both actor and director) of probing the racially charged, rapidly brewing tensions with his brash wit, sensitivity and incredible hilarity throughout. Contributing to the overall success of the film are standout supporting roles by Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Lawrence, John Turturro and John Savage.

From a technical standpoint, this twentieth anniversary Blu-ray edition of Do The Right Thing is pretty much a mixed bag. The opening titles (featuring an exceptionally agitated Rosie Perez dancing up a storm) are very grainy; that’s one thing that I’ve really come to appreciate about Blu-ray, is that the titles and menus generally look pretty amazing. Not so here – it looks as though you could be watching a VHS copy of the movie. Fortunately, the feature looks significantly better, but the image quality is quite variable throughout. Some scenes look really clear and highly detailed, and others show a substantial amount of grain. While, overall, the film is generally pretty good to watch, it just doesn’t offer the final word in clarity. The sound content is also pretty good – especially on opening titles – but there’s not much going on in surround channels. However, for a really dialog-heavy film, the mostly front-heavy sound is more than serviceable, although it would have been nice to get a more robust and involving surround track.

In terms of extras, the Blu-ray is loaded, with tons of featurettes, including a new documentary retrospective that features Spike Lee and many of the principal cast and crew discussing the making of and legacy of this groundbreaking film. And the disc also offers BD Live content access for those so equipped. If you’ve never seen the film, you owe it to yourself to check it out – it very well may be Spike Lee’s best work, and it’s an often riveting and highly entertaining character study. Highly recommended.

— Tom Gibbs


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