Boyz N the Hood appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Though somewhat flat at times, Hood generally looked decent.
Sharpness presented no discernible concerns. Wide shots were a little tentative at times, but not to a significant degree. For the most part, the movie remained nicely detailed and distinctive. I saw no issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering, but some light edge enhancement occurred during much of the movie. Print flaws stayed fairly modest. Some shots looked a bit too grainy, and I saw the occasional speck or bit of grit. However, these didn’t cause any real problems, as the majority of the movie stayed clean.
Colors looked fairly natural, though slightly dense. The tones were a bit heavy at times and didn’t seem as firm or rich as I’d like. Still, most of the tones were appropriately displayed and concise. Black levels also seemed reasonably deep, though they occasionally looked a little murky. Shadows were usually acceptably visible, with only some small issues connected to excessive opacity. Ultimately, despite these small issues, Hood offered a positive image.
The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Boyz N the Hood seemed serviceable but not much more than that. The forward spectrum dominated and presented the most life from the mix. Usually this meant decent stereo imaging from the music and general ambience from effects. The latter demonstrated acceptable movement and involvement but rarely elevated above that level. The motion of helicopters across the front worked best in this regard. The surrounds contributed light reinforcement to the piece and that was about it. Nothing much occurred in the rears, as the track stayed lackluster from start to finish.
Audio quality seemed similarly decent but unspectacular. Though intelligible and listenable, speech was somewhat flat and bland. More than a few lines displayed a bit of edginess, though most of the dialogue was reasonably natural. Effects also seemed a little thin, but they usually came across as acceptably accurate. Music fared best, as the score and various songs showed pretty good range and detail. Low-end response was particularly solid, as bass seemed tight and warm. Overall, the audio of Hood worked fine for the material, but it never went beyond that.
For this new two-disc special edition of Boyz N the Hood, we get a decent array of supplements. On DVD One we open with an audio commentary from director John Singleton, who offers a running, screen-specific piece. During past discussions, Singleton often came across as full of himself and self-congratulatory. Those issues remain happily insignificant here, as Singleton provides an informative and fairly warm examination of his first film.
Recorded in the late Nineties, Singleton clearly possesses a lot of affection for his Boyz experience, and that comes through here. The film’s first act presents the best moments. Singleton chats about the project’s roots, issues related to getting it off the ground, and the many autobiographical elements. We get a great impression of what led to the movie and various challenges he faced as a first-time director. Once the flick jumps to the then-modern-day characters, Singleton proves less compelling, but he still gives us a nice feel for the production and various elements of the movie. At times the piece sags, but overall, Singleton tells us a lot of valuable information and offers a reasonably good commentary.
When we move to DVD Two, we launch with a documentary called Friendly Fire: Making of an Urban Legend. The 43-minute and 13-second program mixes movie bits, stills and material from the set, and interviews. We hear from Singleton, former Columbia creative executive Stephanie Allain, former Columbia VP of Publicity Mark Gill, LA Times journalist Patrick Goldstein, producer Steve Nicolaides, casting director Jaki Brown-Karman, cinematographer Charles Mills, and actors Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Regina King, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, Desi Arnez Hines II, and Darius McCreary.
The piece goes through the origins of the film, how it worked through the studio ranks, launching the production and casting, improvs and acting exercises on the set, actually making the film, Fishburne’s influence on all the young actors, gang threats, reactions to the movie, various controversies and the flick’s impact and legacy. Those last two topics receive much more attention than usual, as they fill about the last third of the documentary. Given Boyz’s history, that makes sense, and “Fire” presents a very good examination of the flick. It goes through all the “making of” subjects concisely and logically and doesn’t shy away from negative issues. We get a good feel for its creation and its impact.
Next we find two deleted scenes. “Trey Discusses His Future With His Mom” runs three minutes, 37 seconds, while “Furious Confronts Doughboy After Ricky Is Shot” goes for 45 seconds. Neither seems great, though at least “Future” helps flesh out the under-portrayed Bassett character.
After this we locate two music videos: “Growin’ Up in the Hood” by Compton’s Most Wanted and “Just Ask Me To” from Tevin Campbell. Both liberally mix movie clips with lip-synch performances. Neither of them comes across as particularly strong, though neither seems bad, even with the absurdly dated fashions in the Campbell video.
We get filmographies for director/writer Singleton plus actors Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Ice Cube, Angela Bassett, Regina King and Nia Long. Trailers includes ads for Boyz as well as Bad Boys II, Blue Streak, Money Train, National Security, and Singleton’s Poetic Justice, Higher Learning, and Baby Boy. Lastly, the package’s booklet presents a few basic production notes.
Undeniably influential and important, Boyz N the Hood runs into problems when viewed strictly as a movie. It occasionally presents some insights and quality moments, but these become submerged by cheap melodrama and awkward sermonizing. The DVD offers decent but fairly average picture and audio plus a small roster of extras highlighted by a good commentary and a fairly rich documentary. Boyz fans will want to grab this set, but I can’t recommend the choppy movie otherwise.
Footnote: this package comes with the title of “Anniversary Edition”. Which anniversary is that? The movie came out 12 years ago, and that seems like an odd number to celebrate. Though the commentary and documentary clearly were created no later than 2001, the trailers and filmographies reflect recent materials, so I can’t accuse Columbia of making these discs two years ago and leaving them on the shelf until now. Maybe they just printed up the sleeves then and didn’t want to invest in new ones.