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Friday, February 29, 2008

DVD Review: Across the Universe

On the plus side, the music is far better than the film. Sadly, the music is tremendously uneven.

The movie (that is, the characters, the plot, and the dialog) is a mess that suffers hugely from Julie Taymor’s need to distort the story so dramatically to fit the many re-interpretations of the Beatles’ classics that make up the film’s soundtrack. Peopled almost exclusively, it seems, with names drawn from the Beatles’ catalog of characters--Jude and Lucy, the main characters, Maxwell, whose hammer is hardly silver nor terribly relevant, dear Prudence the slyly lesbian cheerleader, Sadie, who provides many of the musical highlights, and JoJo, Sadie’s Hendrix-esque boyfriend--the story never lets these characters grown into much other than cutouts of 60’s cliches. Worse, their stories are strung together so haphazardly that the disconnect from scene to scene left me caring little for what little character had grown.

It’s mushy, stupid fare for people who will be wowed by the visuals and who don’t understand the violence done to classic Beatles songs by Evan Rachel Wood who makes every song sound like a high school musical production. Jim Sturgess, the British actor who plays Jude, does better with his songs, although even he falls down in spots--most especially on “Revolution” which distracts from what might otherwise have been an interesting dramatic point in the movie. And maybe that’s the point: with the focus so heavily on the songs (and the songs so uneven in execution), they take away from the drama of the film.

This isn’t surprising to me. Taymor’s Titus was a shockingly gorgeous movie, but not a particularly well-directed film. I felt the same about Frida, although both of those movies put Across the Universe to shame.

But there are some charming bits. Dana Fuchs’ Janis Joplin impression works surprisingly well on most of her songs. “Do it in the Road” and “Helter Skelter” are rocking gems. I found myself wishing that Martin Luther McCoy had a few more opportunities to sing, too, as his voice provided some much needed warmth and charisma. “Let it Be” fulfills its gospel roots sung by a full choir to beautiful effect--one of a handful of flawless musical moments.

Bono shows up both to sing and to play a cameo as an LSD evangelist--and, while funny, his crazy tone is at odds with the irritatingly over-earnest feeling of the rest of the cast. If there had been a little more self-aware wackiness, it might actually have helped the movie along quite a bit. Of course, Eddie Izzard’s lunacy just bugged me while he gave a skewed take on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” At least when Bono sings the songs are nice.

The best musical moment is given by Joe Cocker on a dirty, buzzing “Come Together.” Shame he didn’t do a few more of the songs.

According to darling girl, the movie was at least 12 hours long. I corrected her, of course: the movie was only a bit over two hours. It only felt like it took as long as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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You mean it was supposed to have a point? I thought it was just to amuse people that are on drugs.

on Mar 01 2008 @ 12:51 AM

Tracie and I actually saw this movie in the theater, but not on purpose. We took the newspaper with us as we were out running errands “in case we decide to catch a movie.” I had never heard the title and she kept saying “isn’t it the fantasy movie we wanted to see?” To which I kept responding “Honey, I have no idea what that movie is or what movie you are thinking of.” The movie that she was thinking of turned out to be Stardust. Imagine our surprise. To our credit (foolishness?) we stayed through the end in hopes that it would get better. As you know, it never did. It just kept getting worse. Acid-trippy, bad-dreamy, drug-addled, eye-aching, ear-popping worse. You are wrong about the length - it truly was 12 hours long.

on Mar 01 2008 @ 05:05 AM

Is it bad like this bad?

on Mar 01 2008 @ 07:15 AM

Because it would be hard to be worse than this.

on Mar 01 2008 @ 07:23 AM

Have you heard the new Magnetic Fields CD? The one with the song ‘Zombieboy?’ You might have a trademark case except for their misspelling.

on Mar 01 2008 @ 08:43 AM

Damned Magnetic Fields! Cleverly avoiding trademark infringement when I could really use the extra cash…

Of course, I could probably blame me for the misspelling. But that would kind of take away from the sense of righteous indignation I’ve got going on right now.

And, no, Dork, it wasn’t quite as bad as that movie (which I watched recently for no good reason). It did have it’s moments, though: when the fresh Army recruits are taken in by a giant, gruesome Uncle Sam singing “I want you”, processed by nightmarish drill sergeants in some strange dance routine, and then shipped off to Vietnam, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Then they arrive in Vietnam, fresh off of conveyor belts, still in their underwear, crushing a miniature version of Vietnam under their boots while carrying the Statue of Liberty while “She Ain’t Heavy” repeats in the background.

Apparently, Taymor went to the Nathaniel Hawthorne school of symbolism and nuance.

Seriously, it gave the goofy Bee Gees screw up a run for its money in the badness department.

Cheryl, drugs would have helped, but they couldn’t have saved this movie. I would still have been pissed--I just would have been high and pissed.

Maybe Jerry’s right. Maybe it really was 12 hours long--I know for a fact it sucked away a portion of my life that I’m never going to get back.

on Mar 01 2008 @ 10:28 AM
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