Rent

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When it hit theaters last Thanksgiving, moviegoers gave Chris Columbus' sprawling cinematic adaptation of Jonathan Larson's Broadway smash "Rent" a kind of collective shrug, as if to say: "Yeah, okay, you got most of the original cast back and there's lots of singing and this obviously cost a lot of money, but ... well, it's so 1995!"

Which it is. "Rent" is very much a product of its time, which is actually closer to the late 1980s and early 1990s, when works of searing art like "Longtime Companion" and "Angels in America" were gestating in the hearts of their creators. "Rent" is sort of like the Disney version of those productions -- it's considerably more upbeat and cheerful, by comparison, and for all the HIV and gay-bashing and cross-dressing, it's pretty family friendly.

And who's more suited to a project like this than director Chris Columbus, who gave the world the "Home Alone" films and the first two "Harry Potter" movies? In treating Larson's musical with the same slavish literalism that he brought to J.K. Rowling's novels, Columbus makes "Rent," the movie, into one long music video, doing his best to ignore the fact that original Broadway cast members Taye Diggs, Anthony Rapp, "Law & Order's" Jesse L. Martin, Adam Pascal, Idina Menzel and Wilson Jermaine Heredia are about a decade too old to play their twentysomething characters now ... a fact even harder to dodge when confronted by the incredible vitality of Rosario Dawson as lusty stripper-with-a-secret Mimi, or the sensible underplaying of fellow newbie Tracie Thoms as Maureen's lawyer lover Joanne.

Still, if you like this kind of thing -- and particularly if you loved the stage show -- there's probably something in "Rent" that you'll embrace. Even if most of the songs are, you know, kinda terrible in the harsh light of day. That said, it's still light-years ahead of "The Phantom of the Opera." Or "The Producers."

Sony's double-DVD set -- available in separate full-frame and enhanced-widescreen editions -- aims to further enthrall the fan base with an audio commentary by Columbus, Rapp and Pascal; with five deleted scenes, including an entire musical number and an alternate ending, and most impressive of all, with "No Day But Today," a feature-length, fully comprehensive documentary that chronicles the show's decade-long journey from stage to screen through interviews with just about everyone who ever participated in its development, including testimonials from Larson's family and friends.

STUDIO: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: Available now
RATING: PG-13
PRICE: $28.95
TIME: 135 minutes
DVD EXTRAS: English and French subtitles; audio commentary; deleted scenes; documentary.
INTERNET SITE: http://www.sonypictures.com/rent

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