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Baz Luhrmann
Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo
Writing Credits:
Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce

Shakespeare's famous play gets updated to the hip modern suburb of Verona while it retains its original dialogue.

Box Office:
$14.5 million.
Opening Weekend
$11,133,231 on 1276 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Audio 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 2.0
Portuguese Dolby 5.1
Thai Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 120 min.
Price: $9.99
Release Date: 10/19/2010
• Picture-in-Picture Commentary with Writer/Director Baz Luhrmann, Production Designer Catherine Martin, Director of Photography Donald M. McAlpine and Writer Craig Pearce
• “From the Bazmark Vault” Features
• “The Music” Documentary
• “Director’s Gallery” Interviews
• “Director of Photography Gallery” Interviews
• Cast/Crew Interview Gallery
• Trailer


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Romeo + Juliet [Blu-Ray] (1996)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 22, 2023)

Over the centuries, many parties attempted to make the works of Shakespeare relevant to younger audiences. With 1996’s Romeo + Juliet, Baz Luhrmann succeeded.

Sure, its $46 million in the US didn’t make much of a dent, but the teen target audience embraced it. It also helped the career of a young actor named Leonardo DiCaprio.

Set in modern day, the story takes us to Verona Beach, where a long-lasting feud between the Capulet and Montague business operations persists. Despite this simmering hatred, young Romeo Montague (Leonardo DiCaprio) dares to crash a Capulet party.

There he spies lovely young Juliet Capulet (Claire Danes) and finds himself immediately smitten. The teens conduct a secret romance, one with much peril involved.

Not the most prolific filmmaker, Luhrmann debuted with 1992’s surprisingly charming Strictly Ballroom. Over the 30 subsequent years, Luhrmann directed a mere five additional films, with 2022’s Elvis as the latest entry.

If any Oscar-nominated filmmaker represents “style over substance” more than Luhrmann, I can’t think of that person. After the semi-documentary style of Ballroom, Luhrmann embraced a manic, hyperactive visual format with Romeo that he continues to prefer to this day.

I’ll give Luhrmann credit for his attempts to deliver a new spin on Shakespeare. As noted, the Bard’s work doesn’t tend to play for younger generations – or older folks much of the time, too – so this movie’s updated version comes with potential.

Of course, other filmmakers gave us “modernized” Shakespeare as well, such as the way 1961’s West Side Story translated the tale to then-current New York City. However, that one used Romeo as the narrative template but altered dialogue.

On the other hand, Luhrmann’s Romeo goes with Shakespeare’s lines, so while it takes a slew of liberties, it sticks with the original text in that way. This creates a massive anachronism, as the dated speech contrasts with the mid-90s setting and cinematic choices.

The early 17th century dialogue and late 20th century characters don’t connect well. From start to finish, it simply feels silly to see circa 1996 folks speak Shakespeare’s lines.

This becomes especially true due to the crazed, hyperactive manner in which Luhrmann tells the tale. While he does set Romeo in the 1990s, no one should expect him to deliver a realistic view of the era or settings, as he takes us to Production Design Land.

Sets, costumes and all else get jacked up to “11” here. Everything gets a hugely theatrical slant that seems campy and off-putting.

This translates to many performances as well. Romeo does come with a talented cast, as in addition to DiCaprio and Danes, we find folks like John Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite, Paul Sorvino, Brian Dennehy and others.

Our two leads actually hold back enough to be fairly effective, but the others tend to go big! That lends to the campy air of the project and hurts its inherent drama.

If Luhrmann simply wanted to bring Shakespeare into the 90s, a version that opted for less over the top… everything would demonstrate more potential. While we’d still get a disconnect between Shakespeare’s words and the world of 1990s US seaside locations, I could see a take in this vein that succeeded.

This isn’t it. Luhrmann seems so determined to throw every freaky idea that enters his head onto the screen whether or not any of it makes a lick of sense.

It boggles the mind that a source as sturdy as Romeo can get trivialized so badly, but Luhrmann pulls off that feat. Audiences connected to the 1996 Romeo but I can’t figure out why, as this becomes a nearly unwatchable mess.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Romeo + Juliet appears in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a decent but inconsistent image.

Sharpness became an erratic element, mainly during wide shots and some interiors, as those could look somewhat soft. It appeared some noise reduction occurred during darker shots, as they felt mushy.

Take the scene with Romeo and Juliet at the pool, for instance, as their faces appeared oddly fuzzy. Much of the film offered positive delineation, but expect more than a few exceptions.

I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, though, and the movie lacked edge haloes. In terms of print flaws, the image remained clean.

The movie went with a loud, brash palette. The colors could seem too heavy on occasion, but they appeared appropriately rendered much of the time.

Blacks were dark and tight, while low-light shots offered nice delineation. Mainly due to the softness, this became an iffy presentation.

As for the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1, it used the channels in a satisfying manner. Though parts of the movie focused on quieter character elements, the material allowed the audio to kick into higher gear on occasion.

Many instances of music broadened around the room well, and louder effects created a fine sense of place and action. While this didn’t become a flick with wall-to-wall action, it fleshed out the piece nicely.

Audio quality worked fine, with speech that remained natural and concise. Music offered appealing clarity and range.

Effects also came across as tight and vibrant. Nothing here quite excelled, but the audio worked fine overall.

As we head to extras, we find a Picture-in-Picture Commentary with writer/director Baz Luhrmann, production designer Catherine Martin, director of photography Donald M. McAlpine and writer Craig Pearce. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific look at the source and its adaptation, editing, cast and performances, sets and locations, music, production design and costumes, photography, and related domains.

Expect a pretty strong commentary here. The participants engage in a lively manner and make the track go at a good pace.

They toss in lots of useful information that will add to the viewer’s understanding of the film, I still don’t like the movie, but I understand the filmmakers’ goals better via this solid track.

Unlike most “video commentaries”, this one doesn’t show the participants. Instead, the PiP elements display elements like storyboards, text commentary, song credits and design art. These components add value to the piece.

If activated, the “video commentary” also comes with the option to hit “enter” when onscreen graphics notify the viewer of related featurettes. These pop up 22 times during the film.

All of these come from programs presented solo elsewhere on the disc, so I won’t detail their content here. I’d prefer to watch the clips on their own in that format, but I like that the Blu-ray gives you the option – and since each segment pops up in other areas of this release, you don’t miss anything if you ignore the on-screen prompts.

Note that the PiP commentary can also be accessed as a standard audio commentary. It includes the same chat as the one heard on the PiP presentation.

Four clips appear under From the Bazmark Vault. We find “First Kiss” (2:20), “Beach Scene” (4:17), “Uncut Rehearsal” (4:40), and “Outside the Church” (2:40).

These offer photos and behind the scenes footage from various scenes. Some work better than others but all suffer from one notable flaw: the fact that the presentation plops the clips in fairly small 1.33:1 frames in the middle of the screen.

Clearly those who authored the Blu-ray just took materials from the prior DVD and didn’t attempt to update them. That left us with an awkward and fuzzy view of the proceedings, which seems like a shame since we find some nice behind the scenes material at times.

Within “Romeo + Juliet: The Music”, the primary attraction comes from The Music Documentary. It goes for 49 minutes, 13 seconds and brings notes from Luhrmann, former Fox Music Senior VP Matt Walden, Fox Music president Robert Kraft, score mix engineer Geoff Foster, orchestrator/composer Craig Armstrong, music editor Mark Jan Wlodarkiewicz, music programmer/composer Marius DeVries, former assistant to the director Anton Monsted, former Capitol Records executive Karyn Rachtman, and former Fox Music in house music supervisor Laura Z. Wasserman.

As implied, this program looks at the music of Romeo as well as related aspects of the production. It provides a fairly effective view of the topics, albeit one that leans a little too heavily toward praise.

”Everybody’s Free” - The Journey of the Song spans one minute, 46 seconds and features Luhrmann as he discusses the casting of Quindon Tarver. We already get similar notes in the longer documentary so this clip becomes less valuable.

With The London Music Mix, we find a four-minute, 20-second piece that features Walden, Wlodarkiewicz, DeVries and Foster. An extension of the documentary, we get more notes about aspect of the music in the filmand learn some useful new material.

“The Music” finishes with “Temp Music – The Journey of the Song”, a two-minute, six-second clip that involves Luhrmann, and DeVries. We learn a bit about the use of temp music in this decent segment.

Director’s Gallery brings a mix of clips. These fill a total of 33 minutes, 55 seconds.

Two of the six come from a late 1990s stage conversation with the director. Three show on-the-set footage and rehearsals as well as a clip that looks at the movie’s reception.

Luhtmann discusses his intentions for the film and connections to the original, development and getting a studio to buy into the concept. That pitch meeting story becomes the best of the six, though the behind the scenes segments add value as well.

Next comes Director of Photography Gallery, a collection of five segments with a total time of six minutes, 57 seconds. As we watch behind the scenes material and movie clips, McAlpine narrates with notes about his work. Some good insights ensue.

Eight more segments pop up under Interview Gallery. We hear from actors Leonardo DiCaprio (1:53), Claire Danes (2:28), and John Leguizamo (1:52), production designer Catherine Martin 2:33), screenwriter Craig Pearce (1:47), editor Jill Bilcock (1:47), choreographer John O’Connell (1:09) and and costume designer Kym Barrett (2:03).

The three actors offer fairly banal comments. Despite the brevity of their clips, the others offer some useful material.

Finally, “Marketing” simply provides an international trailer.

With this 1996 film, Baz Luhrmann brought Shakespeare into the 1990s. He did so in the most ridiculous manner possible, as his Romeo + Juliet becomes an absurd, over the top mess. The Blu-ray brings mediocre visuals, good audio and a nice array of bonus materials. Despite a lot of talent involved, this Romeo flops.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 4
0 3:
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