Featured Posts

Oct 1, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: Across the Universe

If your 13 year old is struggling in their US History class, Julie Taymor's Across the Universe may just be the film to help him or her out. It's perfect in terms of being a Cliff's Notes educational tool - it's written at a 5th-grade level, it skims the surface of many a major event both political and cultural (Vietnam, MLK, hippies, the British Invasion, Bono), and it's a lot quicker to watch this two-hour flick than it would be to read On the Road or Ken Kesey or something like that.

For those unaware, Universe is Taymor's ode/tribute to The Beatles, a wannabe Moulin Rouge-esque musical filled with nothing but songs from the Fab Four. It's also derivative, shallow and somewhat unbearably literal. For the "Hey Jude" number, wouldn't you know it - someone sings directly to a character named Jude. Ditto Prudence. As for Lucy (the female lead's name), I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" to be played, only to have to wait until the end credits to hear it (oops, MAJOR spoiler there...). Don't go in looking for subtlety, as it is nowhere to be found - any opportunity for a lyric to be transplanted onto screen is taken advantage of.

All of this is not to say I didn't enjoy it - after all, I like to read USA Today every now and then, too. The film starts off slowly, as we are introduced to Jude (dockworker from wouldn't-you-know-it Liverpool) who sings to us about a girl named Lucy he kinda likes. Skip back in time to a gentler era, and the film laboriously introduces us to its major players (Jude, Lucy, her brother Max, a lesbian cheerleader named Prudence, [sexy] Sadie, JoJo [always on the run], etc.). It's not until about 45 minutes in that the pace picks up, as Vietnam, student demonstrations, drugs, and relationships all converge and force the characters into many a crossroad.

The musical numbers and their corresponding set pieces vary wildly in quality and impact. Prudence sings to an unnamed cheerleader about her desire to "Hold [Her] Hand" while football players fly through the air in over-choreographed motions. Yawn. Jude croons an abbreviated version of the title track on a subway with some old people. Yawn. Max gets literally pulled into the Army by Uncle Sam and a troop of square-jawed soldiers to the tune of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" - again, literal, but still effective. The remaining highlights are all stolen during cameos by Bono, Eddie Izzard and, most effectively, Joe Cocker, singing "Come Together" while playing 3 roles. At least he didn't have to get by with a little help from his friends.

So, should you see this? Well, you've probably already made up your mind based on your level of appreciation for The Beatles. If you like them a lot, Across the Universe is worth checking out, despite its problems. Of course, if you do in fact like them that much, better to just spend some more money and go see Love in Vegas.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you."

5 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Across the Universe"

Bee said...

The military scene is worth the price of a ticket.

Mrs Fletch said...

RE: "It's also derivative, shallow and somewhat unbearably literal."

It's also conceptual and amazingly beautiful at times.

joen05 said...

I was kinda interested in this movie, then my theatre didn't get it, so I couldn't see it. I might try to get out somewhere and see it, but I don't know if I'll be able too. Great review, Fletch!

Matt said...

Would you say this is worth seeing in a theater or am I better off waiting for the dvd? It sounds like a wonderful concept that doesn't have much going on beneath the surface.

Fletch said...

"It sounds like a wonderful concept that doesn't have much going on beneath the surface."

That's a good way to put it.

It has some good visuals, so the theater experience probably would help, but it's not like 300, where you HAVE to see it in the theater.