Shout! Factory // 2011 // 135 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // October 22nd, 2011
The Ultimate Live/Jive Experience
Taylor Swift is about as country as a New York deli. You can buy all that born-in-the-backwoods and "heading to Nashville" schoolgirl charm, but she's no different than the boy band craze of the '90s or the tween-pop sensations of this new millennium. While trading on the tag of said beloved musical genre, somewhere the ladies that paved the way for her Grammy winning ways are weeping into their commemorative Grand Ol' Opry programs. Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn used to get up on stage with big hair and even bigger voices and smother every song they sung in a syrupy honey of homespun heartache and torchy defiance. Swift, on the other hand, gets out her rhinestone spangled guitar, strums the same three chords over and over again, and thousands of currently enthralled schoolgirls (and their desperate to be cool again Moms) wave their rainbow hued glow sticks in obsessive support. She's not a talentless hack. Indeed, she steps deep into the shadows of the honkytonk's honored halls of singer/songwriters, and much of her music is quite good. Compared to someone like Lynn Anderson or Dolly Parton, however, she's the caviar in your cornpone.
Don't think this assessment is close to the truth? Well, then check out the calculated cash grab from Shout! Factory entitled Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless. Made up of three 45 minutes "documentaries" and constantly switching between pandering PR biographical material and concert footage, this is Justin Bieber: Never Say Never sans the 3D visual gimmick and the puke-inducing pageboy. Throughout the course of this likeable if lame career overview (the girl is like 20 years old, is she really deserving of such commercial nostalgia???) we see the very young Taylor learning her craft -- singing, strumming her six string, reliving her teen angst lyrics, and coming up with chart topper after chart topper. By the time we get to the first live performance, we already know what a totally awesome freak of artistic nature this reed thin gal is. Working through many of her most familiar tunes -- "Tim McGraw," "Fifteen," "Teardrops on My Guitar" -- you can see why she's so popular. Like the master of mainstream mediocrity, Garth Brooks, Swift borrows heavily from rock, pop, and other genres, always with a twang to keep the purists guessing and the radio stations happy.
If left to her own devices, and not packaged like a Hot Topic BOGO deal, Swift is actually quite enjoyable. Her voice fits the material perfectly and selections like "Our Song," "Tell Me Why," and "Fearless" bring out the best in her range. However, no one but the devoted fanbase will care about the extended discussions over the fairy tale castle concert stage, the selection of various backup dancers, or the devotion/dedication of her band (who fawn over their employer with genuine awe). In fact, had this DVD followed the Bieber format a bit more, we'd have less behind-the-scenes scuttlebutt and more heroin chic hollerin'. Which brings us to Swift's look: the girl needs a sandwich...or ten. She's almost uncomfortably skinny, her arms looking like twigs as she attempts to mimic her hero's anthemic moves. Even the cover art causes concern, the overall look being one of single stick frailty. Maybe it works with the way-into-Twilight demographic, but compared to the genre greats, Swift remains a little girl in a big woman's world.
Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless offers up all three installments in a lovely and colorful 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The concert material pops with a definitive live feel, while the stock footage and various movieola memories come across with polish and professionalism. The audio elements of the release are very good as well. With three options -- Dolby 2.0, 5.1, and DTS 5.1 -- you can hear Swift in all her just-like-the-recording glory. There is some nice separation between the speakers and a good sense of venue and audience. The off-the-cuff conversations can be a bit hard to hear at times, but for the most part, this is a quality sonic experience. Sadly, there are no bonus features offered. No discography. No liner notes touting her many industry accomplishments. No photo galleries or anything significant. Just 140 minutes of clever country lass cheerleading.
For fans of Ms. Swift, something like Journey into Fearless is a must. It'll remind even the most reticent aficiando that no one glams up a stage better than their mousy Miss. Perhaps, at some point in her career, this youngster can walk in the shoes of Patsy Cline, Reba McEntire, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Until then, she'll be a familiar fad gadget; a product of her time and destined to be dated.
Not guilty...and yet guilty. This is for those who already adore Swift.
Everyone else will be waiting for Carrie Underwood to kick her butt.
Review content copyright © 2011 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 135 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site