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Perfect Harmony DVD Review

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Movie & DVD Details

Directors: Will Mackenzie, Michael Robison / Writer: David Obst

Cast: Peter Scolari (Derek Sanders), Darren McGavin (Mr. Hobbs), Catherine Mary Stewart (Miss Hobbs), Moses Gunn (Zeke), Justin Whalin (Taylor Bradshaw), Eugene Byrd (Landy Allen), David Faustino (Paul), Casey Ellison (Orville), Richie Havens (Scrapper Johnson), Cleavon Little (Pastor Clarence Johnson), Jeff Cohen (Ward), Devin Ratray (Shelby), Wallace K. Wilkinson (Mayor Macy)

Original Air Date: March 31, 1991

Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Aspect Ratio)
Dolby Surround 2.0 (English, French)
Subtitles: English, Spanish; Closed Captioned

DVD Release Date: February 3, 2004
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99 (Reduced from $19.99)
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5); White Keepcase

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Perfect Harmony is set in the 1950s at Blanton Academy, a prestigious private institute in the deep South.
Blanton is renowned for its music program, and there is major responsibility passed onto Derek Sanders, the school's new choirmaster.

Peter Scolari, whose career never quite took off the way his "Bosom Buddies" co-star Tom Hanks did, does a solid job as the school's new choirmaster. He is actually convincing enough for you to not immediately associate him with either his "Bosom" or "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" TV personas! Scolari heads a cast filled with familiar faces.

The schoolchildren take their choir seriously, but they also pass the time as many boys do, with mischief and rivalries. "Married...with Children"'s David Faustino plays the school's punk and racist Paul. Devin Ratray, best known as obnoxious older brother Buzz McAllister in Home Alone plays Faustino's dim-witted crony Shelby.

Peter Scolari, Tom Hanks' roommate on "Bosom Buddies" and Rick Moranis' replacement in "Honey I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show", plays Derek Sanders, the adult heror of "Perfect Harmony." Darren McGavin, famous for his paternal roles in "A Christmas Story" and "Billy Madison", plays a bit of an old racist here.

Justin Whalin plays Taylor Bradshaw, one of the school's best singers and one of the film's most significant protagonists. Taylor is generally good at heart and possesses an interest in exploring the world outside Blanton. His explorations turn up a different style of music and a different way of life, in the nearby colored community of Riverton. Taylor befriends the recently-orphaned Landy Allen (Eugene Byrd), a black boy, who has been working at the school. Landy has a talent for playing harmonica and Taylor and he introduce each other to the musical culture with which they are familiar.

The cast is generally strong, and above TV movie standards of quality. Darren McGavin (A Christmas Story, Billy Madison) plays the headmaster of the school whose warmth thinly veils the prejudices you just know will come through at some point. Cleavon Little, in one of his last roles, is effective as the black community's reverend.

Landy (Eugene Byrd, later of "8 Mile") washes a window, as black boys sometimes did in the 1950s. David Faustino, best known as Bud Bundy of TV's "Married... with Children", plays antagonist Paul.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Picture quality was entirely pleasing. For a television movie that predates the digital age, the video quality was surprisingly sharp and flawlessly clean. The good thing about these made-for-TV movies is that Disney cannot screw them up for DVD release;
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they're already in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio that Disney tends to prefer for catalogue releases.

The film is presented in 2.0 Dolby Surround, although it is almost straightforward stereo. The surrounds are used very sparingly, but the audio mix is clear, discernible, and generally pleasing. The choir scenes are the driving force of the audio and they are nicely conveyed, without feeling gimmicky or overbearing.

EXTRAS

At the start of the disc, there is a 90-second trailer for live action Disney movies, highlighting the studio's films from the last few years like The Rookie, Holes, Tuck Everlasting, Freaky Friday, Remember the Titans, Snow Dogs, and The Princess Diaries. There are no other extras, which is not particularly surprising for this made-for-TV movie.

"Oh we, like sheep," croons the all-boys choir of Disney's "Perfect Harmony."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I was quite surprised to learn that Perfect Harmony was coming to DVD. It's a sweet movie, not as heavy-handed as some similary-themed films, if it's not as complicated or fleshed-out as others. Disney's DVD presentation is just the basics, but the DVD's video and audio quality are certainly satisfying, and I give an earnest recommendation to the film. It merits at least a viewing.

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Reviewed February 19, 2004.