Review for Ballad in Blue
While on tour in England, Ray Charles meets a young boy called David who has recently lost his sight. He decides to help the boy when he visits Paris and discovers a surgeon has a new procedure that may help him regain his sight. However, David's mother doesn't want him to in case something goes wrong and it is up to Ray to convince her otherwise.
If you are not a fan of Ray Charles, this film will be a bore to get through. Though if you are not a fan of Ray Charles there must be something wrong with you, as I can't think if another singer who can make you smile as much when they are doing their thing. Charles is charismatic playing basically himself and the scenes with him interacting with the young actor playing David are sweet and how you would expect him to be with a child.
My problem with this film is that it's not really about Ray Charles, but about David, his Mother and her boyfriend Steve who is recruited by Charles after he hears him play the piano. Whenever we are left to any of these characters the film just deteriorates into cliches and melodrama which is often unbearable to watch. I am unsure whether the actor who played David was really blind, but his performance was painful to watch and almost made a young Macauley Culkin look subtle. The rest of the cast are just wooden and whenever Ray Charles is not on the screen the film is simply awful.
Now this is not to say that Racy Charles is the best actor ever, but in comparison at least he was watchable. His performances of his songs are wonderful and if more of that was included it may have made up for the rest of the film being slightly dull and boring. The ending is left open, but really that's not what was needed and we should have been given a definitive conclusion to at least come away with. Instead we just cut back to Ray for a song. I'm not complaining, because it's the always wonderful What'd I Say?
The soundtrack is almost like a 'Best of Ray Charles' with him performing some of his best known songs including Hit the Road Jack, I Got a Woman, Don't Tell Me Your Troubles, Light Out of Darkness, That Lucky Old Sun, Careless Love, Talkin' 'Bout You, Busted, Let the Good Times Roll, Unchain My Heart, Halleujah I Love Her So and What'd I Say? These are usually while Charles is performing in concert and they are all wonderful to see and as I say with a little more it would have been even better.
With a film so significant as this, being Ray Charles' only major movie appearance (apart from cameos in the likes of The Blues Brothers) I had high hopes that this would be a film overflowing with bonus features. It would be interviews with musicians and filmmakers inspired by the film or by Ray Charles himself. It would be archive material from when the film was made, outtakes or alternate takes from the songs.
And what do we get?
Two minutes of a silent Gallery montage.
I am stunned by the lack of bonus features. I understand that the transfer and everything is wonderful and it does look crisp, the sound is beautiful, but the lack of anything is ridiculous. Even if they had isolated the songs so you could just listen to them it would be something. To be honest, I almost want to not recommend the film based on this, as it is simply not good enough. But I won't.
Ballad in Blue is a wonderful Ray Charles musical film, with awful drama interludes throughout. I will not deny that the musical portions are great and seeing Ray sing Hit the Road Jack with the children singing along is wonderful, but the film grinds to a halt every time the plot rears its head. If it had simply just been about Ray it would have been so much better. However, if you are a fan of the man and his music, this is a great chance to see him do it, even if you do have to sit through the rest of it.
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