Review: The Kennedys DVD

The Kennedys DVD boxSTUDIO: Asylum/Muse Distribution | DIRECTOR: Jon Cassar | CAST: Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes, Barry Pepper, Tom Wilkinson, Diana Hardcastle
RELEASE DATE: 5/15/11 | PRICE: DVD $29.99
BONUSES: featurette
SPECS: NR | 375 min. | TV miniseries | 1.33:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The Kennedys miniseries scene

Katie Holmes and Greg Kinnear are Jackie and JFK in The Kennedys.

After all the controversy surrounding the miniseries The Kennedys, including The History Channel backing out of broadcasting the program in January, the show was aired on premium cable TV’s ReelzChannel in April to an estimated audience of 5 million. Now it’s available on DVD ( exclusively at www.shoptheshows.com), and all viewers can see if they agree with the criticism’s of its production.

Many may be surprised to see that The Kennedys is a solid, smart and entertaining piece of television. The miniseries divides its time among the family’s most well-known members and covers some 60 years, beginning with Joseph Kennedy’s (Tom Wilkinson, The Ghost Writer) appointment as an ambassador to the U.K.; moving through Jack Kennedy’s (Greg Kinnear, Green Zone) rise in politics, marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier (Katie Holmes, The Romantics), short presidency and assassination; and ending with the killing of Bobby Kennedy (Barry Pepper, Casino Jack) in Chicago.

I’m not here to talk about the truths and lies and exaggerations that can be endlessy debated about The Kennedys’ content, but I can offer that, as a miniseries, the show moves along splendidly, carefully balancing between the principal characters and, even better, giving a good amount of attention to all matters pertaining to the titular family, be they personal, public and political. It actually reminded me of those sweeping miniseries from the late 1970s and 1980s — and I mean that in a good way.

As for the cast, Greg Kinnear and Tom Wilkinson are outstanding as JFK and Joe Kennedy. Kinnear, in particular, offers a fine, subtlely mannered take on Jack — more than just the accent and walk, but rather a gentle, emotional portrayal that hints at what might have lurked behind the confident eyes of a man who was thrust into public life by his father (if we’re to go along with what the series proposes). Barry Pepper is fine as Bobby, and Katie Holmes … well, she gets the job done and bears a strong enough physical resemblance to Jackie that it clicks.

The one bonus feature on the DVD, the 45-minute making of documentary The Kennedys: From Story to Film produced and directed by Betty Palik, fulfills its soup-to-nuts requirements, delving into the show’s inception, researching, scripting, production, costumes, makeup and so on.

In the doc, producer Joel Surnow, best known as the guy behind TV’s 24 and La Femme Nikita, offers a perfect comment on what inspired him to pursue The Kennedys:

“When you look at a checklist of all the things you look for when you start a drama, this is a 10 out of 10 checklist,” he says. “Ambition, jealousy, betrayal, tragedy — the list goes on, and you’ll find it in the Kennedy family.”

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.