DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Danny Boyle
Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Freida Pinto, Irrfan Khan
Writing Credits:
Simon Beaufoy

A Mumbai teen reflects on his upbringing in the slums when he is accused of cheating on the Indian Version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

Box Office:
$15 million.
Opening Weekend
$360,018 on 10 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Hindu/English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 3/31/2009

• Audio Commentary with Director Danny Boyle and Actor Dev Patel
• Audio Commentary with Producer Christian Colson and Writer Simon Beaufoy
• 12 Deleted Scenes
• “Slumdog Dreams: Danny Boyle and the Making of Slumdog Millionaire” Featurette
• “Slumdog Cutdown” Featurette
• “From Script to Screen” Featurette
Manjha Short Film
• “Bombay Liquid Dance” Video
• Previews and Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Slumdog Millionaire [Blu-Ray] (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 27, 2017)

Before 2008, I must admit that Danny Boyle wasn’t high on my list of directors who I figured would someday win an Oscar. Boyle made a good name for himself with 1996’s Trainspotting but his subsequent résumé didn’t exactly scream “Oscar bait”. After all, graphic horror flicks like 28 Days Later and sci-fi efforts such as Sunshine don’t attract Academy attention.

Boyle’s career path changed once he got an Oscar on his mantle. 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire earned him that prize, and did so in unusual fashion, as it didn’t feel like standard Best Picture fare.

Slumdog takes us to India where we meet Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), a Mumbai resident who prospers on the local version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Only one question away from the top prize of 20 million rupees, Jamal finds himself undergoing violent police interrogation. No one believes a “slumdog” from the ghetto could know all those answers without outside assistance.

Jamal maintains his innocence, and the film engages in flashbacks to illustrate how a poor kid came to possess so much knowledge. We hear each question Jamal receives along the way and then head back in time to discover how learned the answers.

We trace Jamal’s destitute childhood as an orphan (Ayush Mahesh Khedekar and later Tanay Hemant Chheda) with his older brother Salim (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail/Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala/Madhur Mittal) and see how he came to his current position. A primary focus falls upon Jamal’s undying love for another abandoned urchin named Latika (Rubina Ali/Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar/Freida Pinto)

Films like Slumdog remind me that I wish I could always see movies without any foreknowledge of their reviews. Even if I hear only a couple of notices before I watch something, those opinions color my expectations.

When a flick receives the lavish praise heaped upon something like Slumdog, I run into an even greater challenge. I anticipate such a transcendent experience that the actual movie itself might find it tough to succeed.

So perhaps it became inevitable that Slumdog would disappoint me. That said, I’m not sure how much I would’ve liked this spotty experience anyway. While not without its merits, the movie seems much too trite and predictable to deserve all its plaudits.

Seriously – can anyone who watches Slumdog not claim to know exactly what path it’ll take from very early in the film? I won’t say that the viewer can easily anticipate each and every turn, but at least 95 percent of them seem telegraphed from the start. There’s absolutely no question where this story will go and what will happen to its participants.

And that makes the film rather tedious, a factor not helped by the one-dimensional nature of its characters. Maybe I should refer to them as caricatures instead, for the participants here never turn into anything more than two-dimensional.

From the start, Jamal is the smart, airy dreamer while Salim is the dark, practical one. Latika is little more than a lovely prop, a charming beauty over whom Jamal can obsess. In Hitchcockian terms, she’s a MacGuffin, for she exists to motivate the plot, but she never becomes more than that.

In addition to the flat characters, Slumdog tells a pretty ordinary story that doesn’t depart too much from the Oliver Twist realm. I really flashed back to the Dickens work quite often; while more graphic, Slumdog still feels a strong kinship with that classic. If you’re going to steal, it makes sense to do it from the best, but I wish the writers of this film had come up with something more original.

Granted, the framing technique of the interrogation and game show do provide something different. Honestly, that side of things becomes the most creative aspect of Slumdog.

Rather than simply have Jamal narrate his life story, the game show format allows the filmmakers to add a layer of tension. Not only do we watch his interrogation, but we also wonder if he’ll win the money. (Though I wouldn’t wonder too much about that in this predictable flick.)

And that’s where the creativity begins and ends. Not only do we get a trite, predictable story, but also we find one that makes little sense at times.

Jamal does some illogical things on the game show – like use a lifeline when a poodle could guess the right answer – and aspects of the kids’ lives make no sense. If someone could explain how these street beggars quickly learn flawless English with no formal schooling, I’d appreciate it.

Actually, even though I praised the flashback framework, it comes with a problem as well. One minute the cops interrogate Jamal with torture methods, but then suddenly the inspector decides he’d rather do so over a cup of tea.

Does this make the slightest bit of sense? No – the choice exists to create the narrative format but it doesn’t seem logical in the movie’s world.

The flashback framework illustrates the contrived nature of Slumdog as well. Every game show question Jamal receives seems connected to a Meaningful Life Event that allows him to know the answer.

Amazing, isn’t it? Jamal never knows anything for a simple reason. There’s always an important story attached to every question, and that makes the story seem awfully convenient, contrived and absurd.

Boyle moves things along at a nice clip and gives the movie a good visual sense of style, though he goes overboard on Dutch angles; those slanted camera shots abound and get old. A viewer should never notice framing; if I actually attend to the camera angles, that means I’m not involved in the story. The fact that I was so aware of all the Dutch angles means that Boyle dropped the ball at some point.

Add to these flaws other issues such as crummy dialogue and mediocre performances and I find it exceedingly difficult to figure out why Slumdog Millionaire got so many positive reviews, much less why it took home Oscar’s biggest prize. I wouldn’t call it a bad movie, but it’s not one with any real depth. It provides a mediocre fable that almost never distinguishes itself in any notable way.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus B+

Slumdog Millionaire appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Only a few mild concerns cropped up in this generally strong presentation.

For the most part, sharpness looked good. I noticed a smidgen of softness in some wide shots, but these instances remained minor. Overall, the movie boasted good delineation and clarity.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. I witnessed no source flaws; grain occasionally looked somewhat heavy, but that stemmed from the photographic choices.

In terms of colors, Slumdog went with a stylized palette. The movie featured a lot of hot yellows, and the game show shots favored a chilly blue. Within the constraints of the color selections, the hues seemed well-reproduced.

Blacks were tight and deep, and shadows showed nice clarity and smoothness. The smattering of slightly soft shots left this transfer short of “A” level, but it was good enough for a “B+”.

As a character drama, I didn’t expect from the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Slumdog, but to my surprise, the audio provided a dynamic and involving affair. Even quieter scenes boasted a good sense of ambience, while many others featured a lot of activity. This meant bustling street scenes packed with various vehicles that swarmed around us and created a fine sense of the dense environments.

Music acted as a strong participant as well. The score and songs played a significant role and formed an active part of the mix. Surround usage was consistently positive, as the back speakers added a lot to the experience.

Audio quality always seemed satisfying. Some issues with intelligibility resulted from accents, but the lines themselves were recorded well and seemed natural.

Music was lively and full, as both score and songs showed excellent vivacity and definition. Effects appeared accurate and dynamic, with crisp highs and deep lows. This was a surprisingly excellent soundtrack.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? Audio showed a little more range and force, while visuals offered stronger clarity and delineation. Clearly both presentations came from the same transfer, so the improvements resulted from the superior capabilities of BD.

The Blu-ray combines the DVD’s extras with some exclusives, and we start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Danny Boyle and actor Dev Patel, both of whom sit together for this running, screen-specific track. They discuss sets, locations and shooting in India, cast and performances, cinematography and editing, story issues and pacing, music, and cultural elements of the piece.

While Patel throws in the occasional useful observation, Boyle dominates this track. And that’s fine with me, as the director offers a strong look at the film. He gives us a good overview of the various production topics and makes sure the commentary moves at a nice pace. Overall, this turns into a solid discussion of the movie.

For the second commentary, we hear from producer Christian Colson and writer Simon Beaufoy. They offer a running, screen-specific piece that examines many of the same topics as the first track, though it focuses a bit more on the script and the adaptation of the source work.

Combined with occasional dead air, the moderate redundancy makes this commentary less than enthralling. We get some good insights about subjects like the movie’s title and Beaufoy’s research, but there’s not a ton of fresh information here.

12 Deleted Scenes run a total of 33 minutes, 51 seconds. These include "Chase Through Slums – Longer Version" (4:38), "Boys At Container Yard/Beanbags/Yellow Dress" (2:04), "Prem at Police Station" (2:42), "Frederick Stevens Question" (4:39), "Jamal at Opera, Boys Leave Agra" (3:57), "Jamal Searches, Finds Arvind" (1:30), "Chowpatty Beach and Tulip Star" (1:59), "Jamal Returns to Tulip Star" (0:32), "Jamal Wakes in Slum" (1:40), "’Why Can’t You Leave It Alone’" (1:16), "Jamal Loses Latika, Calls Salim" (1:41) and "The Folder" (7:09).

Don’t expect anything in the form of lost treasure here. Mostly we get more of a) the brothers’ conflicts, and b) Jamal mooning over Latika. Yawn – we get too much of those topics in the final film.

The most interesting clips involve Prem ("Police Station" and "Stevens Question"), mostly because he’s a more compelling character than dishwater dull old Jamal. I’d rather see a movie about the arrogant game show host than one about this boring "slumdog".

Two featurettes follow. Slumdog Dreams: Danny Boyle and the Making of Slumdog Millionaire runs 22 minutes, 58 seconds and features Boyle, Colson, Beaufoy, Patel, and actors Freida Pinto and Anil Kapoor.

"Dreams" looks at the project’s adaptation and development, what brought Boyle onto the project, story and characters, cast and performances, shooting in India, the musical number, and some technical aspects of the production.

Because we already went through two commentaries, we don’t find a lot of fresh information here. Still, "Dreams" acts as a good recap of various topics, and it comes with some nice footage from the set. I especially like the shots of Boyle as he works with the film’s young actors. "Dreams" gives us a decent examination of the production.

Slumdog Cutdown fills five minutes, 36 seconds with music. Essentially it acts as a cut-rate music video; it mixes movie clips with the song "Jai Ho". It’s forgettable.

The next few pieces didn’t appear on the DVD. From Script to Screen runs five minutes, 25 seconds and offers info from Boyle and Beaufoy. “Screen” looks at aspects of the movie’s infamous bathroom scene. It gives us a short but informative show.

An Indian film called Manjha lasts 41 minutes, three seconds. Like Slumdog, this movie looks at the struggle to survive on the streets of India, but it’s a much darker vision. It becomes a depressing but valuable addition to the set.

Bombay Liquid Dance goes for three minutes. It shows seemingly random shots of India accompanied by music. I have no clue what purpose it serves.

The disc opens with ads for Australia, The Secret Life of Bees, Bride Wars and Notorious. We also get two trailers for Slumdog.

I’ll leave it to history to judge how Slumdog Millionaire will eventually compare to its Best Picture-winning peers. Unfortunately, my gut says it won’t stand up well among its competition. Slumdog seems relentlessly mediocre, as it tells a predictable story about two-dimensional characters in an unspectacular way. The Blu-ray offers largely strong picture and audio along with a solid set of supplements. I don’t care much for the movie, but the Blu-ray reproduces it well.

To rate this film visit the original review of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main