DVD Review:

Elvis: The Mini Series

Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, July 2008


When I first viewed Elvis The Mini Series on TV I wasn’t overly taken with Jonathan Rhys Myers as Elvis.

After a second viewing, this time on DVD, I was more appreciative of the nuances and capability the actor brought to his very challenging role. 

However, I still believe the actor tries too hard at being The King! His Irish inflected, Elvis accent, is often too forced and his acting, at times, too strident.

What it takes to effectively portray the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll should never be underestimated.  Each fan has his or her own preconceptions and expectations about how Elvis should be portrayed on screen and this makes the acting challenge particularly problematic.

So, does Jonathan Rhys Meyers make a compelling Elvis?  Not surprisingly, fans are split on his performance.  As with all things artistic, the answer is an intensely personal one.

That Rhys Meyers has gone on to become one of the film industry's major stars suggests his casting was not a bad one, and as mentioned earlier, I for one, have softened my original stance on his performance. Certainly not the best portrayal of Elvis, that still rests with Kurt Russell, but Rhys Meyer's portrayal is a commendable, if inconsistent, one.

The acting by the principal characters is generally high, although I am still not fully convinced by Randy Quaid’s role as the Colonel (although others were, as evidenced by the actor's Emmy nomination as Outstanding Supporting Actor!). 

The underrated Robert Patrick captures Vernon’s physicality while the always impressive Camryn Manheim is nicely compassionate and very believable as Gladys. Rose McGowan, as Ann-Margret, suffers from being given an unsympathetic characterisation to enact. Several of the supporting actors are weighed down by ordinary dialogue.

A number of the supporting actors are weighed down by having ordinary dialogue to deliver.

Overall, the narrative story has character and while uneven, is on the whole, believable. There are a number of very powerful scenes including one of Elvis interacting with a Gladys burdened by her growing dependency on alcohol. Not surprisingly, the constraints of a two part mini series mean many incidents must be excluded from the story. Regardless, the narrative generally hits its target.

A strong Elvis soundtrack adds value to the production and thankfully it is Elvis singing, not an ETA.  However, the use of studio recordings for live performance scenes is quite strange.

As with most TV biographies there are a number of factual inaccuracies.  A very unusual blunder was having Rhys Meyers turn up his right, rather than left, lip.  One wonders how these things happened when EPE was involved in the production.  Regardless, the errors do not compromise viewing pleasure.

The mini series was nominated for 6 Emmy and numerous other awards (see list below). This is testament to a quality production.

Verdict: A well produced but inconsistent television mini series which deserves a second viewing on DVD. Now, if only EPE will get behind either its long promised Elvis Anthology DVD series or a follow up mini series, Elvis The Later Years!

Video Quality: Very Good

Audio Quality: Excellent

Above: Stills from filming of Elvis The Mini Series

Specifications & other details:

  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
  • Sound Mix: Stereo (for broadcast); Dolby Surround 5.1/Dolby Surround 2.0 (DVD)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  •  Studio: ANCHOR BAY
  • DVD Release Date: August 14, 2007
  • Run Time: 173 mins
  • Director: James Steven Sadwith
  • Writer: Patrick Sheane Duncan

Amazon.com review: Elvis: The Miniseries was produced with the cooperation of the Presley empire, and it shows: this 173-minute opus uses Elvis's original recordings and real Graceland locations. The official imprimatur might also account for the movie's emphasis on the good years: what we get here is the early rise to fame, the Army interlude, then a run through the increasingly dispiriting movie career. It climaxes with the 1968 comeback TV special, leaving Elvis's addled final decade undetailed (but foreshadowed, to be sure). The story of the Mama-lovin' Tupelo boy who ascended to the throne of rock has been told so many times it has taken on the contours of Greek myth: we know everything that's coming, but we gain reassurance from hearing the familiar anecdotes anyway (and then Elvis and the boys started fooling around with "That's Alright, Mama" and Sam Phillips rolled the tape, etc.). In this telling of the myth, the villain is an easy find: it's Colonel Tom Parker, the big-talking and short-sighted manager who reaped big profits from Presley's movies but kept the King out of projects such as West Side Story. Randy Quaid gives the movie's best performance as the cunning Colonel.

An intelligent script helps the movie over the episodic nature of biopics, and Camryn Manheim and Robert Patrick are nice casting as Elvis's parents. But the whole thing hinges on the central E-casting, and here Jonathan Rhys Meyers proves a mixed bag. He appears a little intimidated by the role, and never quite owns it, even if he's very good as the dewy, more-or-less innocent Elvis. Having to lip-synch to the original recordings makes Rhys Meyers look outmatched at times: how's that big sound coming out of that spindly guy? Kurt Russell's performance in John Carpenter's classic TV-movie remains the gold standard. This take on Elvis makes him out to be a pawn in a crazy game, rather than a self-directed musician with a very distinct vision of his own. --Robert Horton

Product Description: Jonathan Rhys Meyers of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III and BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM delivers a definitive performance in the acclaimed mini series event that depicts Elvis from 50s teen outcast to worldwide sensation, through his grim decline to spectacular 68 comeback. Experience the triumphs and tragedies, excesses and affairs, madness and music of The King Of Rock & Roll, featuring a stellar cast that includes Emmy® and Golden Globe® winner Camryn Manheim as his beloved mother Gladys, Oscar® nominee Randy Quaid as the notorious Colonel Parker, Robert Patrick as Vernon Presley, and Rose McGowan as Ann-Margret.

Trivia: More than 300 Elvis fans auditioned for the role of Elvis Presley, they were all turned away and Rhys Myers hired, even though he wasn't one of the 300 lining up for audition.

Awards and nominations:
  • Emmy Award
    • Outstanding Miniseries (nominee)
    • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, nominee)
    • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie (Randy Quaid, nominee)
    • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie (Camryn Manheim, nominee)
    • Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special (nominee)
    • Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special (nominee)
  • Golden Globe Award
    • Best Actor - Miniseries or TV Film (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, winner)
    • Best Supporting Actor - (Mini)Series or TV Film (Randy Quaid, nominee)
    • Best Supporting Actress - (Mini)Series or TV Film (Camryn Manheim, nominee)
  • Directors Guild of America Award
    • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television (nominee)
  • Satellite Award
    • Outstanding Miniseries (winner)
    • Outstanding Actor - Mini-series or TV Film (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, winner)
    • Outstanding Supporting Actor - (Mini)Series or TV Film (Randy Quaid, winner)
    • Outstanding Supporting Actress - (Mini)Series or TV Film (Camryn Manheim, nominee)
  • Costume Designers Guild
    • Excellence in Costume Design - Miniseries or TV Film (Eduardo Castro, winner)

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