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Blu-Ray : Worth a Look
Ranking:
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Release Date: March 26th, 2024 Movie Release Year: 2023

The Book of Clarence

Overview -

Blu-ray Review By: Matthew Hartman
Can one man accidentally grift his way into heaven? Jeymes Samuel’s religious comedy The Book of Clarence is hardly a miraculous throwback to the good old days when you could enjoy a little levity with our sacred texts. A fun jaunt but it tries to have its cake and eat it too with LaKeith Stanfield delivering another fine lead performance. On Blu-ray, Sony delivers an excellent A/V presentation with a nice assortment of extras. Perhaps not for everyone, but surely Worth A Look.

OVERALL:
Worth a Look
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Length:
129
Aspect Ratio(s):
2.39:1
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date:
March 26th, 2024

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Religion is a tough sell to convert theatergoers to a comedic cause. On one hand, for a comedy of this sort to be good a filmmaker needs to have an understanding and respect for the text it skewers. On the other hand, you also need an audience willing to accept jokes and barbs aimed at their faith not as insults but as an honest extension of religious dialog. History of the World Part One, Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, and even Kevin Smith’s Dogma offered up hilarious insights about faith and religion. Jeymes Samuel’s The Book of Clarence tries to wiggle into this sparse group of successful comedies, but it often plays it too safe to be either wildly hilarious or religiously insightful. 

We see LaKeith Stanfield as our titular Clarence, a shiftless layabout intent on taking the easy path to riches and glory, only it doesn’t work the way he planned. Under mountains of debt, Clarence segues from one scheme to the next to pay his tab. After getting really, really high, he has the bright idea to pin himself as another Messiah like this Jesus (Nicholas Pinnock) fellow who has been roaming around the countryside. All is well and good and Clarence is on his way towards paying that debt, but then he manages to grow a soul and starts doing the right thing. The only problem with doing the right thing is it tends to piss off guys like Pontius Pilot (James McAvoy) who tend to crucify folks who disrupt his system of Roman law and order.  

I guess the best way to begin my review of The Book of Clarence is with a little explanation of my religious history. I was raised agnostic by my parents though I was baptized Catholic in secret when I was an infant by my Grandmother. My best friend growing up was Jewish and I have a Druze uncle and an Episcopalian Decon aunt. I would personally call myself A-religious, neither Agnostic nor Atheist. I believe in the equal possibility that god exists and is the source of all creation as I do the possibility intelligent intergalactic beings seeded our planet. In short, I appreciate the place religion and faith have with people in their day-to-day lives, but I am eternally bewildered anyone would kill another person or enact restrictive and harmful laws based on faith becoming therein a contradiction of said faith. That seems entirely self-defeating. But that’s also why I have a love for religious humor that takes a little air out of that big balloon and was looking forward to The Book of Clarence. All in all, it's all right. 

On the whole, The Book of Clarence is a pretty funny movie, but not necissarily a great religious comedy. The setup for some insightful faith-based humorous exploration is there, it’s the execution is just too dogmatically stringent and almost overly dramatic. There’s no real fear of offense to give the satire a much-needed sharp but poignant edge. Monty Python’s The Life of Brian was quite the stir in its day but it also set the benchmark for this thin sub-genre. It poked a finger at all messianic figures and followers but also shined a light on how easy it is to follow a false prophet when their only goal is profit. It’s a tough act to follow and to their credit, Jeymes Samuel, and LaKeith Stanfield gave it their best shot.

What I enjoyed most about The Book of Clarence was Stanfield’s titular grifter working his scheme as the actual Christ goes about preaching to his disciples and followers. I love how their paths cross as he scams off followers from Christ, but likewise, Christ does the same with Clarence’s little band of reprobates. I wanted to see more of this than what was ultimately in the film. I would have loved to see Clarence and Jesus get into a Messiah-off battle of faith and followers. Instead, the film keeps things PG-13 inoffensive and goes down a fairly pedestrian path of enlightenment and redemption. That said, the finale is pretty hilarious squeezing in one last good joke thanks to some great casting by Benedict Cumberbatch, but maybe not enough to usher this film into the realm of hilarious salvation alongside the kings of religious comedies. 





Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray 
The Book of Clarence starts a new chapter on home video with a single disc Blu-ray release from Sony. No Digital code was included. Pressed on a BD-50 disc and housed in a standard case, the disc loads to a basic Sony main menu with the bonus features along the right side of the screen.

Video Review

Ranking:

Bending a knee to its 1080p lord and savior, The Book of Clarence is a pretty damn beautiful-looking Blu-ray disc. From the jump details are immaculate allowing you to fully appreciate where the budget was spent. Facial features, makeup, hairstyling, costuming, and the film’s impressive production design are all on display. This isn’t a cheap-looking film. Some CGI elements don’t quite blend well, a few big action-styled scenes are a little obvious, but that’s a small nitpick. Colors are lovely with bright beautiful primaries and healthy skin shades. Black levels are also equally lovely giving the image a true sense of three-dimensional depth and dimension. If I liked the film better a 4K would be quite something to see on disc!

Audio Review

Ranking:

On the audio side, we enjoy a robust DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that doesn’t disappoint. It might not be as big and boisterous as an Atmos track could provide, but it holds its own. The film never loses focus on dialog as the soundscape sounds big and expansive. Even in quiet sequences, there’s a flurry of background activity to give each scene a sense of space, and dimension, and provide an immersive quality. Flipping on my receiver’s DTS Neural:X function helped open up the mix and give it a little extra shove in the lower registers. All in all an excellent track front to back.

Special Features

Ranking:

The bonus features package for The Book of Clarence is a rather robust supper for true believers to feast upon. At the head of the table is a very insightful audio commentary featuring director/writer Jeymes Samuel with LaKeith Stanfield. The conversation is a good one offering a lot of detail about the genesis of the project, the production, and what they hoped to accomplish with the film. Well worth a listen. Next is over half an hour of deleted scenes, some I genuinely wish stayed in the film just to add more levity and absurdity to the show. After that is the pretty typical assortment of brief featurettes that dive into various aspects of the film but really only explore the surface. 

  • Audio Commentary featuring Jeymes Samuel and LaKeith Stanfield. 
  • Book 4: Making the Film (HD 8:53)
  • The Gospel of Jeymes: On the Set with Jeymes Samuel (HD 8:42)
  • Band of Brothers: Meet the Cast (HD 11:33)
  • Song of Songs: An Epic Collaboration (HD 4:11)
  • Gag Reel (HD 5:08)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD 31:04 Total)
    • Judas’ Mission
    • Leper Colony
    • Jesus & Judas Subtitled
    • Clarence in Prison
    • Romans & Elijah
    • Mary Ashs
    • Hair Solon
    • Jail Cell 
  • Previews (HD 10:23)

Comedy is a hard genre to pull off. Religious comedies are even more difficult. It’s tough to poke faith and religion in the eye while also maintaining an air of respect and appreciation. Few try it, and even fewer do it well. The Book of Clarence has the makings for a great religious comedy but plays things entirely too safe and by the book (whichever book that may be). Fine performances abound and there are some very clever and hilarious scenes to enjoy, but not enough to make this a truly great comedy especially as it tries to have and eat its dramatic cake too. Sony delivers the film to Blu-ray glory with an excellent A/V package and a nice assortment of interesting extras. Far from a classic but one worthy a viewing to see if it's for you. Worth A Look

Order Your Copy of The Book of Clarence on Blu-ray