BLUE LIKE JAZZ
MOVIE: * (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
It tend to be cynical about a lot of things – from religion and politics to art and school. While I can see people’s passion for such things, they can often annoy me when any of these subjects are approached with a zealous nature. Also, even from my teenage years, I have been irritated by pseudo-intellectual people who honestly believe they’re free thinkers but end up being just like everyone else in a specific group.
It is for these reasons that I found “Blue Like Jazz” to be a real groaner and eye-roller of a film. I know it’s based on a best-selling book that touched many people’s lives as they went to college, but I just didn’t have the patience for it.
The story follows Don (Marshall Allman), a high school graduate from a fiercely conservative Christian town. He attends the extremely liberal Reed College, and his views on politics, religion, life and love are challenged.
There’s no doubt that the years a person spends in college can be life-changing and challenging. However, in today’s world, college has become a four-year-to-whenever extension of high school, offering some people a chance to flop around and “find themselves.” I’m all for people finding out who they are and reevaluating their views of the world. However, spending upwards of $100,000 a year or going into painful debt in order to do so is just silly.
“Blue Like Jazz” reveals the shallowness of the college years in which an otherwise legal adult can act like a child well into his 20s. The movie is supposed to show an awakening of the character, but it shows him clinging to all the problems from his previous world, only swapping ideologies. He longs for acceptance from his pastor and mother at home, and now he longs for acceptance from the schools ironically atheistic “Pope” and cute lesbian friend (because far be it from Hollywood to depict a non-cute lesbian). He swaps anarchy for his rigid home life, and the reality is that neither one is a good choice.
The movie skewers religion, then attempts to give a positive message about it in the most annoying way. Written with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, the script feels like it was crafted with no knowledge of religious beliefs, but rather with an outside-looking-in supposition. In the end, it gets nothing right.
I’m sure the 18-year-old kids who will spend the next four or more years having late-night dorm room conversations about their naive views of religion, politics and what they think might be the real world (but really isn’t) will eat this up. But as a guy in my 40s who never appreciated this kind of thing even when I was in college, I couldn’t stand the movie.
There are some nice special features on the Blu-ray, including a audio commentary, deleted scenes, a photo gallery and theatrical trailer. There’s also several featurettes, including “Save Blue Like jazz,” “The Cast,” “The Animator,” “This Is My Story” and “The Music.” Finally, there are two additional videos which chronicle the making of the film, including its successful Kickstarter campaign. These include “Making Blue Like Jazz” and “Master Class: Directing Actors on Set.”