Madonna: Truth or Dare was once the highest grossing documentary of all time, and twenty years after its release remains firmly in the top ten. It might be surprising that very few other documentaries about pop culture have resonated so much with audiences; then again, Madonna is no mere pop star, but rather, an icon. Truth or Dare came out in theaters at a time when she was the biggest pop star in the world; its release on Blu-ray, coincides with the release of her latest album, MDNA, which topped the charts in its first week. Very clever timing, Miramax. Very clever indeed.
Contrary to what I initially suspected would be the case, one doesn’t have to be a huge Madonna fan to enjoy Truth or Dare. The film is an entertaining look behind the scenes of her lavish Blonde Ambition concert tour, and anyone remotely interested in music, let alone Madonna, will find those backstage glimpses enlightening. If anything, it will give those less enthusiastic about Madge more respect for her as an artist. Even in her iciest moments onscreen, Madonna possesses a sharp wit as well as an obsessive desire to be the best she can be. When she tears apart her sound guy or her makeup artist, it’s not for the sake of being cruel; it’s for the sake of being perfect. Madonna: Truth or Dare is a perfect portrait of the lengths one will go to succeed, and justifies Madonna’s stardom by showcasing the methods that got her there.
It’s not just Madonna’s methods that are on display but her entourage as well. The dancers and crewmembers are colorful characters in their own right, with their own fascinating stories to tell. When dancer Oliver meets his estranged father for the first time in years, after they disagreed about Oliver’s career choice, the moment is treated no less dramatically than any involving the tour’s biggest star. Scenes involving other celebrities coming backstage to greet Madonna also bring out sides of both them (think Warren Beatty, Kevin Costner) and her that one normally doesn’t see on camera.
The film also shows Madonna’s softer side in moments such as when she describes herself as the mother hen to her family of dancers, and assures her dad over the phone that she can get him tickets to any of the tour dates despite his worrying over being a nuisance to her. These moments humanize her even as the concert scenes highlight her credentials as a pop goddess. These distinctions are highlighted by the film’s beautiful cinematography, shot by Robert Leacock. The backstage footage is crisp in black-and-white while the concert performances themselves pop with color. The Blu-ray transfer highlights every glorious detail of the amazing effort put into the stage sets and dance numbers of the Blonde Ambition tour, and the sharp contrast of those with the behind-the-scenes segments suits the film perfectly. It’s also worth noting that Madonna’s somewhat-untraditional looks have never been so beautiful as they are on camera here.
Overall, it’s probably better worth a pop fan’s money to pick up this disc than to shell out for live tickets to her newest tour. After all, in a gigantic stadium you can’t get as close to Madonna as you can here, and Truth or Dare is as close to total access to a celebrity as you can get.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
The only bonus feature included is the original theatrical trailer for the film.
"Madonna: Truth or Dare" is on sale April 3, 2012 and is rated R. Concert, Documentary. Directed by Alek Keshishian. Starring Madonna.