Plot: What’s it about?
Jody (Tyrese Gibson) has two children with two women and still lives with his mother, but he wants to break out and make a name for himself. He also has no real employment to speak of and everyone around him says the same thing, that he needs to become a man. His mother has a new boyfriend named Melvin (Ving Rhames), an old school hustler who has more game than Jody can stand, so there is much tension between the two. But Melvin makes Jody’s mother pleased and as such, he soon moves in and this makes Jody wonder how much longer he has before he is kicked out, just like his brother was before him. So he works as a clothes salesman and tries to forge out on his own, but meets obstacles at all turns, it seems. He wants to have a complete relationship with his current woman, but finds his ex complicates matters, in all sorts of ways. At the same time, his friend wants to reenter the gang lifestyle and one of his woman’s ex’s (Snoop Dogg) has taken aim on Jody, in an effort to get back his former lover. Can Jody somehow stand up to all these factors and become a man, or will he crumble under the intense pressure?
After the success of Boyz N The Hood, the movies have seen a wave of black filmmaking that has tried to capture the essence of the streets. A few like Menace II Society have gotten it right, but most come off as pale imitations, to be sure. As the director of Boyz N The Hood, John Singleton had a lot of pressure to deliver another milestone picture, but he was never able to come close to his debut, until now. I still think Boyz N The Hood holds the top spot on Singleton’s resume, but Baby Boy is a massive step back on the right path, in all respects. The theme is close to the same, but has enough differences to remain fresh and of course, never seem rehashed in the slightest. Even when events seem similar, there’s something new or changed to ensure that Baby Boy is no carbon copy, but a stand-alone project. It has some flaws to mention, but still stands as a competent movie and one that marks a return to former glories for Singleton. I think Baby Boy deserves a larger audience and with such a rich package from Columbia, I think it will find that audience.
As even the most gifted filmmakers stumble at times, the couple misfires by director John Singleton can’t be hammered too much. Singleton stormed into the movie business and started to fade a little with a couple missteps, but his resume is still short and with experience, he was destined to bounce back at some point. I think this return has come with Baby Boy, which shares some common themes with the one that brought him to the dance, so to speak. You can tell Singleton has had some experience since his debut film however, as his visual sense is more refined and he handles the characters a little better also, even if by a slim margin. It’s good to see him back in the swing of things, as he is a talented filmmaker and has immense potential, I think. Other films directed by Singleton include Boyz N The Hood, Higher Learning, Poetic Justice, and Rosewood. The cast includes Tyrese Gibson (Love Song), Snoop Dogg (Bones, Urban Menace), Taraji P. Henson (Satan’s School For Girls), and Ving Rhames (Mission: Impossible, Entrapment).
Video: How does it look?
Baby Boy is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As is the usual from Columbia’s day & date releases, the transfer looks excellent and leaves very little room for complaints, even minor ones. The print used is pristine and shows no signs of wear and compression seems flawless, no problems on either front there. The colors are vivid and clash well with the deep, rich black levels, for a very effective overall visual scheme. A few small issues to surface, but these are so minor in scope, there’s no need to even mention them. This is a terrific visual effort from Columbia and as such, viewers should be most pleased.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included Dolby Digital 5.1 option offers a basic, but effective audio treatment and has some bells & whistles when it needs them. As expected, the rap fueled soundtrack kicks hard & deep, with a lot of bass presence, which livens up the mix at times. The surrounds house some activity also, from atmospheric touches to more impact effects, but never in a forced manner. The bulk of the audio is found in the front channels, where excellent separation and presence is found, no real issues to discuss there. I’m also scoring this one a notch higher than I had planned to, because of how rich and booming the musical soundtrack is here. This disc also includes 2.0 surround options in English & French, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, and Thai, in case you’ll need those.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc is packed with special features, including an audio commentary from director John Singleton. As per usual, Singleton offers a brisk session and never lets the silence mount, as he has a lot of comments to make here. I found his comments to be insightful and he covers a lot of ground here, with great use of the time. Simply put, fans of this movie or Singleton’s work in general should give this one a spin, as it is another impressive session. You can also check out the Cinemax behind the scenes featurette, which is promotional in nature, but has some worthwhile interviews and other little snippets. A nice selection of deleted & extended scenes have also been included, as well as a reel of outtakes & bloopers, which was a welcome addition indeed. This disc also includes some music videos, storyboard comparisons, some talent files, television spots, and the film’s theatrical trailer.