Larger Than Life: Video Reviews

Last week, Entertainment One released the DVD of the recent feature documentary Carol Channing: Larger Than Life. Reviews have been mostly positive. The creative team includes Dori Berinstein (co-writer, director), Adam Zucker (co-writer). Those interviewed include Channing, husband Harry Kullijian, composer Jerry Herman, as well as Lily Tomlin, Chita Rivera, Barbara Walters, Tyne Daly, Tippi Hedren, Loni Anderson, Debbie Reynolds, Phyllis Diller, Tommy Tune, Bob Mackie, and Bruce Vilanch. Among the 15 bonus features are “Creating Dolly,” opening night stories of Hello, Dolly!, and “Barbara Walters on Carol,” among others.

Jason Bailey (DVD Talk): I’m sure it’s possible to dislike Carol Channing, but I’m not sure how. … Much of the film is centered on her defining performance, as the title character in Hello, Dolly! … But it also gives us a sense of her background, growing up as a stage-hungry kid, working her way to Broadway, and becoming a theatrical legend. It is also, charmingly, a love story. … Carol Channing: Larger than Life is a cheeky treat, entertaining and skillfully crafted – the bridging animations (adapted from Al Hirschfeld’s drawings) are marvelous, and an early montage, in which Channing gets young and younger via intercut performances of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” is lovely. There aren’t a lot of performers who can honestly be called “living legends,” and Channing is one of them. If this documentary leaves us wanting more of her, well, that’s probably an accomplishment.

Phil Hall (Film Threat): Carol Channing is one of the most original forces of energy in the history of American theater. Dori Berinstein’s documentary on the 91-years-young star is a wonderful tribute to a genuine theatrical original. Accompanied through much of the film by her childhood sweetheart and fourth husband Harry Kullijian (who died after filming was completed), Channing makes a fast sweep of her life. … Much of the film is devoted to recalling Channing’s theatrical triumph as the matchmaker Dolly Levi in the 1964 show Hello, Dolly! … The film places a strong emphasis on the positive, and a surplus of famous collaborators and admirers lavishly sing the praises of Channing’s generosity, humor and strength. The film avoids dwelling on Channing’s low points. … However, the film makes up for those stumbles by serving up some wonderfully rich examples of Channing’s brilliance as a singer, comedian and raconteur. And a Today clip of a Channing story reducing Gene Shalit to hysterics is one of the most infectiously hilarious items ever put on screen. As show biz documentaries go, this one is a must-see.

K. Harris (Amazon): Carol Channing: Larger Than Life, by Dori Berinstein, is as infectious as its subject. … The relationship with her husband Harry (unfortunately since deceased) is absolutely beguiling and has an incredible backstory that I won’t spoil. This film is a fitting love letter to this unorthodox couple as much as being a chronicle of Channing’s career. The film really jumps all over the place, though; it does not particularly give you a comprehensive overview of Channing’s life, more like savory bites and humorous anecdotes. … Larger Than Life is not a perfect film by any means, but its subject matter makes it virtually irresistible. The film itself runs shy of 87 minutes, but there is a bounty of bonus features as well. … If you’re a fan, you’ll definitely want to check this out. And if you don’t know Channing, why not?

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