Bonus Points: DVD Reviews

'Block Party': Almost a Celebration

Dave Chappelle masters the congas and comedy in his
Dave Chappelle masters the congas and comedy in his "Block Party." (Copyright Rogue Pictures)
By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 13, 2006; 12:00 AM

"Dave Chappelle's Block Party" (Unrated, $29.98)
Release Date: June 13

When Dave Chappelle throws a party, he doesn't mess around.

In September of 2004, when the former Comedy Central star decided to host a mammoth outdoor concert in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn, N.Y., he invited some of the best hip-hop and R&B artists around: Kanye West, The Roots, Jill Scott, Common, Mos Def, Erykah Badu and, most impressively, the reunited Fugees. All of these performers, plus several others, showed up for what turned out to be a festive, free-spirited day of music, comedy and community inspiration.

Fortunately, director Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") captured every note and Chappelle quip -- leading up to and during the concert -- and transformed that footage into "Dave Chappelle's Block Party," an infectiously fun documentary/concert movie perfect for viewing on a laidback summer night.

I only wish the Unrated DVD, which promises additional moments not seen in the theatrical release, delivered as much entertainment value as the film itself. For starters, the extended edition of "Block Party" contains only six new minutes of material, most of which centers on an eccentric couple that lives in an unusual building near the concert site. It's easy to see why Gondry, lover of all things bizarre, would be so fascinated by the pair. But I'm guessing almost everyone who buys "Block Party" would have preferred to hear Dave tell more jokes. (The theatrical version of the movie also is available on DVD, but with almost no extras.)

More worthwhile additional footage can be found in the two mildly interesting featurettes, which take a closer look at preparations for the show and the residents of Chappelle's Ohio hometown who made the journey to New York. But surely Gondry must possess reels upon reels of outtakes that could have been added to the mix. Where, for example, is the extra rehearsal footage of Chappelle and Mos Def working out a comedy routine? Or of the artists hanging backstage between sets?

With these questions unanswered, one can only hope for a "Block Party, Part Two" DVD sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Most Dysfunctional Bonus Point: The DVD offers two ways to watch the movie, one of which allows viewers to access extended musical performances when a megaphone icon appears onscreen. Great idea ... except that no icons ever appear during the film. Apparently, I received a defective DVD; a rep at Universal insists that I should have found 16 minutes of more hip-hop from Dead Prez, Jill Scott and The Roots featuring Big Daddy Kane.

Also on DVD This Week: "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" and more.


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