Enjoyable Rap Concert Showcase

In September of 2004, comedian Dave Chappelle hosted a block party in Brooklyn with a top-notch line-up of rappers holding a free concert. Released as Dave Chappelle’s Block Party in theaters, it combines some of the decade’s best rap performances with Chappelle doing his thing. Director Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) crafts a feature-length documentary interspersing raw musical performances from such stars as the Fugees and Kanye West with minor comedy bits showcasing Chappelle’s wit and persona.

The Chappelle Show on Comedy Central made Dave Chappelle a comic superstar overnight and a household name. Only running two seasons before Chappelle walked away for personal reasons, his vivid characters and uncanny humor made him one of America’s most popular entertainers. The raw and biting sketches hit the cultural zeitgeist with razor-sharp insights that are still fondly remembered. He became the Richard Pryor of Generation X.

Dave Chappelle’s name was probably a great marketing hook but the real star in this movie are the outstanding rap performances

Made at the height of Chappelle’s fame in the 2000s, don’t expect the side-splitting hilarity of his show in this quasi-concert movie. Dave Chappelle takes a relaxed, laid-back approach hosting the block party. Funny bits are sprinkled throughout. The main focus is the music and how the low-budget production pulled off an impromptu block party in the middle of a random Brooklyn city block.

There are some fun gags when the comedian visits a small town in Ohio, handing out free tickets to the concert being held in New York. Glimpses of backstage footage and Chappelle musing on several topics help round out the documentary. It’s a genuine and soulful documentary that never comes off as planned or staged for the cameras.

The list of musical performers from the hip hop world is a who’s who of the era put together by Questlove, many familiar as guests from the Chappelle Show. A pre-superstardom Kanye West delivers an electrifying Jesus Walks and Talib Kweli gives a hype performance of his own. Common, Jill Scott, Dead Prez, The Roots, Mos Def, Erykah Badu and others contribute. The big surprise is the last minute reunion of the Fugees, who hadn’t performed together in almost seven years before the block party. The label wouldn’t clear Lauryn Hill as a solo act, so they got the group back together for one final performance.

There’s no doubting Chappelle’s immense comedic gifts. Despite his often edgy racial humor, the stand-up comedian and actor has an eminently likable and inviting personality that works well with people of all different backgrounds. No one blinks when he invites an entire marching band from Ohio to join the festivities.

Dave Chappelle’s name was probably a great marketing hook but the real star in this movie are the outstanding rap performances. It’s a rap fan’s pure delight with lively energy and great presence. As long as you don’t expect two hours of all-out sketch comedy à la The Chappelle Show, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party is a winner.

Video

Video quality is serviceable but lackluster, likely reflecting the documentary’s low-budget feel. Shot on film, the concert footage has more definition and clarity than the behind-the-scenes footage often personally hosted by Chappelle. The biggest issue here is that Mill Creek only includes the original theatrical version clocking in at 103 minutes, dropping the unrated extended cut first released on DVD back in the day. The unrated cut had longer musical performances and ran 110 minutes.

Mill Creek licenses Dave Chappelle’s Block Party from Universal and it’s almost certainly Universal’s own film transfer from original elements. The 2006 movie was in fact one release with an early digital intermediate. There isn’t much vitality and crisp definition in the grainy and mildly gritty documentary footage. The 1.85:1 presentation has adequate detail for 1080P resolution but is often soft.

The Blu-ray has been taken from an older HD master, possibly ten years or longer ago. Flat colors, dull black levels, and haphazard cinematography makes their presence known. While shot primarily in 2004, the final picture quality results would make you think it’s an older concert movie from the 90s.

While not impressive for today’s demanding videophile concert releases shot in pristine Hi-Def, the presentation is film-like and faithfully replicates the original footage. Mill Creek provides a satisfactory AVC encode on a BD-25.

Audio

The clear audio highlights of the original 5.1 surround mix are the dynamic musical performances, including searing renditions of big hits from Kanye West, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Jill Scott, and a special reunion performance by the Fugees. Performing on a small stage set up in the middle of a Brooklyn block, it’s not an ideal recording environment but poses no real sonic issues. My guess is that the rap production was sweetened back in the studio after the concert was over.

There isn’t much atmosphere or directional panning in the basic sound design. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio is a primary reason why owners of the DVD may want to upgrade from its standard 5.1 Dolby Digital. The low-budget documentary offers pedestrian but intelligible dialogue reproduction. The bump up to lossless clarity helps on the low end and bringing out the micro-dynamics heard when the rappers take the stage.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font.

Extras

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party was originally issued on DVD with almost an hour’s worth of special features and an extended unrated cut that ran seven minutes longer. The problem here is that Mill Creek, licensing the movie from Universal, includes no bonuses and drops the extended cut for the theatrical version.

The special features included additional musical performances and a couple substantial featurettes; holding on to your DVD is essential. More mystifying is that Mill Creek proudly boasted of the special features in their press release.

The disc is listed as Region A, though it hasn’t been tested.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Dave Chapelle Block Party
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Warm, celebratory documentary hosted by Dave Chappelle goofing it up for the camera with a great concert line-up of star rappers from the 2000s.

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User Review
3 (1 vote)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 22 Block Party screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 120,000+ already in our library), 120 exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, subscribe on Patreon.