“The Color Purple”


Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10), TMDB.com (3/5)

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve routinely made it clear that I’m not a big fan of movie musicals. In addition, less known is the fact that I’ve also never been particularly enamored with the original dramatic version of this story (1985), a picture in which director Steven Spielberg still had his training wheels on when it came to making serious cinematic fare. With those admissions in mind, then, it would appear that this latest iteration of the classic Alice Walker novel would have two prejudicial strikes against it going in, and that assessment would be accurate, as these qualifications sincerely reflect my characterization of this alternative take on this beloved tale. Director Blitz Bazawule’s musical adaptation of this tale about a young African-American woman (Fantasia Barrino) struggling to find happiness under harsh conditions in early 20th Century Georgia is plagued by an array of issues, including an ill-fitting fusion of this story in a Broadway format/context, an uneven distribution of production numbers throughout the course of the narrative, numerous over-the-top (and frequently silly) surreal song and dance sequences (many of which look like they’ve been plucked fresh from a Baz Luhrmann movie), understandable but nevertheless-disappointing plot and character development alterations, and some serious miscasting choices (such as the usually-reliable Colman Domingo, who’s decidedly out of place in the role of Mister). This combination of misfire elements makes for somewhat disappointing viewing for those who adored the book and original screen version and does little for winning over innately lukewarm supporters of the material (like me). Granted, the film gets better as it goes along (probably because there are fewer musical numbers in the second half than the first), and its ensemble cast, for the most part, is quite compelling, including Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, David Alan Grier, Corey Hawkins and Oscar nominee Danielle Brooks. However, on balance, this is one of those projects where things probably would have been better off left alone.