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Case Number 07196: Small Claims Court

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Beyond The Sea

Lionsgate // 2004 // 118 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 15th, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Naugle has tried—unsuccessfully—to have his friends call him "Patrick the Knife."

Editor's Note

Our review of Beyond The Sea (DVD/CD), published January 25th, 2010, is also available.

The Charge

In the ear of cool, Bobby Darin was the soundtrack.

The Case

When Bobby Darin (Kevin Spacey, American Beauty) was just a child, the doctors told him that because of a rare heart condition he'd never live to see his fifteenth birthday. Darin proved the doctors wrong and went on to become one of Hollywood's most unlikely success stories. Darin struggled through endless mediocre nightclub acts until he finally found success with hits like "Mack the Knife," "Splish Splash," and "Beyond the Sea." Darin's eventual transition into film proved to be a double success: nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar, Darin also met his true love, starlet Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth, Blue Crush). Darin's attempt to become "bigger than Frank Sinatra" and a true Hollywood legend is threatened as his health declines, his relevance as a nightclub act is questioned during the turbulent '60s, and his marriage to Sandra Dee begins to slowly dissipate.

There is no doubting that Bobby Darin was a talented man. The actor/singer/dancer triple threat enthralled audiences with his music, emoted his way into an Oscar nomination (for 1963's Captain Newman, M.D.), and lived longer and harder than anyone expected. Yet Kevin Spacey's biopic—an obvious labor of love by the actor/director—never lives up to the Darin legend. Bobby Darin's life in Beyond The Sea, while extraordinary on its own terms, lacks a dramatic arc needed to produce a really riveting film. Some movies can get by on performance alone (Ray wouldn't have been half the movie without Jamie Foxx); Beyond The Sea focuses too much on song because Darin's legacy, while solid, isn't very exciting.

Kevin Spacey felt as if he was born to play Bobby Darin. Maybe, but was he really born to sing Darin's songs as well? While Spacey's voice is smooth and pleasant, doesn't it give a film that much more credit when the subject's original songs are included? Beyond that is the fact Spacey looks too old to play Darin in his 20s; call me stubborn, but I couldn't get past the fact it was a 40-something actor in a 20-something role. Spacey does his best with the part and is most convincing during Darin's final years, balding, mustached, and singing protest songs in lieu of his classic standards.

Kate Bosworth shines as Darin's wife Sandra Dee, though her future substance abuse troubles and their subsequent divorce is all but glossed over in this film. Bosworth has that rare glow; she exudes true star quality. Ably assisting Spacey and Bosworth is a rotund John Goodman (The Big Lebowski) as Darin's manager/friend and Bob Hoskins (Unleashed) as Darin's well-meaning brother-in-law. The performances in Beyond The Sea are seasoned and polished; it's a shame that the screenplay (by Spacey and Ladder 49 scribe Lewis Colick) seems to lose steam half way into the story.

Beyond The Sea is not a bad movie, but it is wildly uneven without much complexity. The problem is that when you compare it to other, more riveting biographies like Tim Burton's Ed Wood, the Andy Kaufman story Man on the Moon, or even Ray, it feels flat and vacant. Kudos to Kevin Spacey for bringing his vision to the screen—it's just a shame the subject matter's story wasn't more involving.

Beyond The Sea is presented in a very attractive looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Lions Gate has made sure that this picture appears solidly rendered without any dirt, grain, or other imperfections that would otherwise mar the image. Overall this is a very fine presentation of the film.

The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Get ready to sing along to Darin's biggest hits in Dolby Surround! Needless to say, the soundtrack's biggest boost comes when Spacey belts out "Mack the Knife" and other hits. There is also plenty of ambient and background noises, though the bulk of this track is front heavy. Also included on this disc is a Dolby 2.0 soundtrack in English, as well as Spanish subtitles.

The extra features included on this DVD edition of Beyond The Sea are fairly slim. The best is a commentary track with Spacey and producer Andy Paterson. Not surprisingly, Spacey is the dominant voice on this track: he discuses the origins of the project, his own experiences with Darin's life, and production details about the shoot. The 20-minute featurette "Bobby's World" is a behind-the-scenes look at the production with interviews by Spacey and various cast and crewmembers.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 73

Perp Profile

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Spanish
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Biographical
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary By Actor/Director Kevin Spacey and Producer Andy Paterson
• "Bobby's World" Featurette

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