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The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band DVD Review

The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band movie poster The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band

Theatrical Release: June 1968 / Running Time: 110 Minutes / Rating: G
Director: Michael O'Herlihy

Cast: Walter Brennan (Grandpa Bower), Buddy Ebsen (Calvin Bower), Lesley Ann Warren (Alice Bower), John Davidson (Joe Carder), Janet Blair (Katie Bower), Kurt Russell (Sidney), Bobby Riha (Mayo), Jon Walmsley (Quinn), Smitty Wordes (Nettie), Heidi Rook (Rose), Debbie Smith (Lulu), Pamelyn Ferdin (Laura), Wally Cox (Mr. Wampler), Richard Deacon (Charlie Wrenn), Steve Harmon (Ernie Stubbins), Goldie Jeanne Hawn (Giggly Girl), John Craig (Frank)

Songs: "The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band", "The Happiest Girl Alive", "Let's Put It Over with Grover", "Ten Feet Off the Ground", "Dakota", "Oh Benjamin Harrison", "'Bout Time", "Drummin', Drummin', Drummin'", "West o' the Wide Missouri"

Buy The One and Only, Genuine Original Family Band on DVD from Amazon.com


Though 1967's The Happiest Millionaire was by nearly all counts a critical and popular flop, the Walt Disney Studio was not yet done with the musical format. The following year brought back the veteran songwriting team of Richard and Robert Sherman as well as Millionaire's young leads Lesley Ann Warren and John Davidson.
Unlike their previous outing, a three-hour Roadshow production, this would be a more standard feature, with an under-2-hour runtime.

The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band takes us back to 1888 America and introduces us to the Bower family. Grandpa Bower (Walter Brennan, of The Gnome-Mobile), a passionate Democrat, heads a family band, who he hopes will be able to perform at the convention for Grover Cleveland's presidential campaign in St. Louis. The twist is that Grandpa's son Calvin (Buddy Ebsen), father to nine, is a Republican.

So is Joe Carder (John Davidson), an outspoken young charmer who has his eyes on the eldest Bower daughter Alice (Lesley Ann Warren), the only one the film opts to develop at all. Carder heads a Republican publication and speaks with passion about southern Dakota and its quest for statehood. Alice meets Joe with nervousness and excitement; the two have been corresponding via letters.

The opening title screen to Disney's politic-infused musical comedy. Joe Carder tries to sell Mr. Bower on moving to Dakota.

Carder convinces the Bower family to move on out to Dakota with perhaps the only catchy tune of the film. There, Alice is asked to become a schoolteacher in the town. But while she is being interviewed and her qualifications reviewed, Grandpa Bower is messing up her life by an impromptu lesson on "The War Between the States" to her young would-be students. The town board has to debate Alice's ability to teach, and meanwhile Calvin kicks his old man out of the house.

But the focus of the film becomes the presidential election between Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison, which resulted in a popular vote winner who did not become president. There are lots of debates and arguments on a variety of issues; this isn't a trait of the movie, this is the movie. Fortunately, Katie Bower (Janet Blair) mandates that there are no political discussions in her household, but there's still more than enough banter. What one side calls "politics", the other calls "statesmanship."

Family Band makes it all the easier to appreciate even a middling effort like The Happiest Millionaire. With what amounts to nearly two hours of political arguments, the film is quite abrasive. Very few characters are properly defined and those which are, are off-putting. Somehow, in the scheme of the film, even the family band in the title figures pretty minorly among all the arguing.

The songs written and orchestrated by the normally reliable Sherman Brothers are among their most forgettable. Hardly any of the family band's numbers have a definable melody or interesting lyrics. There's general fanfare and there's the sluggish song-and-dance that accompany them.

Grandpa Bower conducts his family band. In their second Disney film, there's romance in the air again for Lesley Ann Warren and John Davidson.

Walter Brennan does bring something to his role of the cantakerous grandfather, but with a permanently pained scowl on his face, it doesn't appear to be life. The rest of the performances are even more stiff. John Davidson's public speaker is loud and rambunctious, which is contrasted by Lesley Ann Warren's reserved, fake bangs and big eyes look. And these two are the life of the party.

Kurt Russell, who would go on to become a leading man for Disney, shows up just slightly more than his future life partner Goldie Hawn, who briefly dances it up with John Davidson as "Giggly Girl" at the election night festivities.

Though this didn't signal the end of Disney musicals altogether, those that would come in the years after (Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Pete's Dragon) tried to emulate Mary Poppins by incorporating animation with the live action. As Davidson notes in the commentary, Disney's musicals became less and less successful, so it's understandable that the studio cooled to the format, at least entirely live action ones.

Buy The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.33:1 Reformatted Fullscreen
Dolby Mono (English)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: July 6, 2004
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99 (Reduced from $19.99 SRP)
White Keepcase

VIDEO and AUDIO

The film is presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen and this appears to be a cropping of a slightly wider (1.75:1) presentation. The aspect ratio might be enough to offend some, but those who can accept it will be severely disappointed in the video quality. This appears to be an old video master, plagued by print flaws and a generally poor picture.

Colors seem inconsistent and inaccurate, with fleshtones often coming across as overly orange or pink. The picture possesses a soft quality, and at times, seems more grainy than it should be. One very noticeable issue which crops up with abnormal frequency: moire effects which turn up in patterned areas to create odd color spectrums. Overall, Family Band definitely lacks the clarity and sharpness of the properly-restored '60s Disney films.

As for the Dolby Mono track, there isn't a great deal to comment on. While it's odd that a musical like this wouldn't be released theatrically with a stereo track, the audio seems appropriate enough. A surround remix might have breathed more life into the rather unimpressive musical performances of the film, but it's preferable that Disney's offering the original sound format, assuming that's what this is. With the audio, there aren't the types of glaring problems that affect the film's picture quality. It seems more acceptable than praiseworthy.

The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band's DVD Main Menu Richard Sherman in "The Family Band Album"

EXTRAS

Unlike the recently-released barebones disc of the Sherman Brothers musical The Happiest Millionaire,
One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band does feature a couple of new and interesting extras.

Despite the name, "The Family Band Album" is not just a gallery of stills, but a new 12-minute retrospective featurette. Reflecting on the film are stars Lesley Ann Warren and John Davidson, and songwriter Richard Sherman. Sherman mentions that the project was originally intended to be a 2-part television movie and expanded to feature film status.

All three discuss the cast, revealing Kurt Russell's dislike of dancing and Walter Brennan's reliance on cue cards. It's stated that Walt was a big fan of The Happiest Millionaire, the last film he oversaw and one which all three of the interview subjects had collaborated on the year before. Other topics of discussion include Goldie Hawn's enthusiastic film debut, filmmaking in general, and carrying on after Walt's death.

Lesley Ann Warren reflects. John Davidson does too.

Lesley Ann Warren, John Davidson, and Richard Sherman also participate in a screen-specific, feature-length audio commentary, but again, the three have been recorded separately. As a result, there's a noticeable lack of energy and continuous flow. Sherman talks primarily about the songs and Walt's influence. Warren comments more on the people she worked with and her experiences with the Disney studio. When John Davidson talks, it's often about his personal experience with filmmaking and Disney.

There are significant periods when one of the participants won't say anything for a while and even though there are three different speakers, there's still some empty space on the track. I'm not sure what Sherman was watching, as he praises the way the film has been restored, with great looking color and contrast.

Menus are 16x9 still frames featuring portions of the patriotic sounding score. A 1 minute preview for classic live action films from the '60s and '70s on Disney DVD and video plays at the start of the disc.

They sing, they dance, and they want to put it over with Grover! Lovers cuddle after the election results are in.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

There is a sharp and unusual contrast to the way this musical has been treated on DVD. With an audio commentary, featurette, and colorful disc art, one would gather that Disney definitely decided to bestow some kind of proper treatment to this film. But one need only look at the poor picture quality and lack of original aspect ratio to decide that the film itself was given a pass.

The film isn't one of Disney's best, although there is no doubt a nostalgic attachment that can apply here. Unfortunately, the disc includes a couple of bonus features alongside a poor-looking feature, with a cropped and unsatisfactory picture. Overall, this is a disappointing DVD release of a disappointing film.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Related Reviews
The Happiest Millionaire (1967) | Follow Me, Boys! (1966) | The Gnome-Mobile (1967)
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) | Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

New to DVD: The Ugly Dachshund (1966) | The Three Lives of Thomasina (1964)

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Reviewed July 1, 2004.



Text copyright 2004 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1967 Walt Disney Pictures and 2004 Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.