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BETTY AND CORETTA (DVD)

A&E Home Video / 2012 / 90 mins / NR

THE FILM:

Lifetime movies are a mixed bag. They mean well, but most are produced at a rapid-fire rate on a small budget. This is yet another example of what Lifetime movies do both right and wrong. It's a great idea for a TV movie, but the execution leaves much more to be desired for such a powerful subject.

BETTY AND CORETTA centers on the lives of the two wives who stood by Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. The film follows Dr. Betty Shabazz (Mary J. Blige) and Coretta Scott King (Angela Bassett) during the time when their husbands were at the height of their exposure and killed for their beliefs. In the aftermath, the two widows carry on the good fight despite the violent ripples left in the wake of their husbands' deaths.

The movie flips back and forth between the docudrama and talking head footage of Ruby Dee (friend of Malcom X and Martin Luther King). This is the biggest problem with BETTY AND CORETTA. The two types of films try to occupy the same movie and you don't feel like you've quite gotten enough of either. There are some interesting personal accounts and some enjoyable dramatized scenes, but they leave you wanting more and wishing they were consistent.

To be fair, the acting is quite exceptional for a TV movie. Mary Blige and Angela Bassett both do incredibly well in the title roles and even the actors for Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. do a great job as well. That's why it's so disappointing the script jumps around so much that it feels like we're only focusing on a few key moments of their lives and never a complete story. The scenes themselves range from appealing reenactments to overly dramatic depictions that slip into TV-movie cheese land.

As a film, it feels very incomplete. The docudrama skips around only to key points of Betty and Coretta's lives. That's okay, but if you're going to take liberties with a dramatization it'd be nice if they could write a few scenes to make the characters' story arcs feel more complete rather than just snippets. If the film had decided just to focus on only Betty, Coretta or Ruby Dee's account, there could've been a real film here, both informative and entertaining. Instead, it's a scattered mess of a TV-movie in need of some real direction.

THE DISC:

The widescreen presentation has a decent transfer, but it's nothing to write home about. For a TV movie, it's passable quality.

The 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio sounds quite good for most of the film. That is until the end credit music does something funky where it sounds like the speakers are out of sync. Whether this was an intentional part of the score or not, it sounds awful and will have you scrambling to smash the stop button on the remote.

THE EXTRAS:

No extras to speak of on the disc unless you count trailers for other films. It would've been interesting if this included some deleted scenes, commentary or at the very least the raw historical footage.

OUR SAY:

BETTY AND CORETTA is a nice tribute to a very important part of history, but it hardly works as anything more than that. There are some interesting scenes and the acting is great for a TV movie, but it's all over the place with its script that tries to cram as many scenes as it can into 90 minutes. Still, for a Lifetime film, this is definitely one of the better ones and it could work well as a movie for the classroom. A mildly interesting rental, but there just isn't enough here to recommend a purchase.

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