Waiting for the latest Best Picture winner to hit DVD is a lot like waiting for the reigning American Idol winner's first album to drop. Part of you can't wait to see the movie again, but another part wonders if you'll enjoy it as much now that you're no longer rooting for it to win a glamorous competition. Will Slumdog Millionaire still feel as exciting to watch now that it's the champ instead of the underdog?
The answer to that question may very well depend on how impressive your home entertainment system is. Slumdog is the story of Jamal, an uneducated young man from the slums of Mumbai who shocks all of India by his flawless run as a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Through flashbacks, we see how his extraordinary life experiences helped him answer the questions, and we learn his true motivation for competing on the show. Director Danny Boyle's vision of slum life in Mumbai is chaotic, colorful, frightening, loud, fast-paced, and at times even a little bit magical. Unless you're watching it on a fairly big screen in a darkened room, you lose some of the sensory overload experience that made it so easy to relate to the fear and excitement of the film's young heroes in their struggle for survival. The Who Wants to Be a Millionaire scenes especially suffer from losing their overwhelming garishness. In the theater, you felt like you were in the hot seat with Jamal as he answered those questions. At home, you kind of go back to feeling like you're just watching a game show.
You may lose that feeling of sensory overload, but if you turn on the commentary track featuring Boyle and star Dev Patel, you will at least experience some information overload. Boyle has a story to share about nearly every actor, location, and set piece that appears on screen. He also clues you in as to where each of the deleted scenes included on the DVD would've fit into the film and why they were cut. Boyle appears so passionate and knowledgeable about every aspect of the film, you can't help but feel he earned that Best Director Oscar. Patel, on the other hand, keeps disappointingly quiet. He chimes in every once and a while with fun tidbits about how co-star Freida Pinto had to stand on a box to properly hug him, and the pains the children playing the younger versions of Jamal had to suffer in order to make their ears stick out like his, but he just doesn't seem willing to share very much of his experience. It's especially frustrating in a couple of scenes when he and Boyle laugh nervously over creative differences they experienced on set, but then don't tell us what the fights were about. But if you do watch with this commentary, make sure you stick with it through the end credits, when Patel makes a rather alarming joke about what he thinks would become of Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire 2.
Special features include an alternate commentary track by screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and producer Christian Colson, a bevy of deleted scenes, and a feature called "Slumdog Cutdown," which is basically a music video set to the Oscar-winning song "Jai Ho" that helpfully puts the events of the film into chronological order. There's also a behind-the-scenes documentary that includes great insight into the casting process and the unique challenges of filming in India. It's a nearly complete package, but I also would've enjoyed a featurette or two about the film's music and choreography. Slumdog fans will enjoy adding this DVD to their collection, but if you missed seeing it in theaters, I worry you may not get to see what all the fuss was about. Slumdog Millionaire just wasn't a "wait for the DVD" kind of movie.