Saturday, March 08, 2008

All You Need Is Love - but a decent script couldn't hurt

So how bad is Across The Universe, the musical that is chock full of songs penned by The Beatles?

Pretty bad.

On the other hand:

Is it all bad?

Not really.

You see, Across the Universe, while not as horrific as 1978's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, once more proves that you can't just lump a collection of terrific songs together and cobble a story around it. I mean, for Christ's sake, having the leads named Jude (as in Hey Jude) and Lucy (as in the Sky With Diamonds), as well as surrounding them with other characters named Sadie (as in Sexy Sadie) and Max (as in Maxwell's Silver Hammer) ad nauseam, and then throwing in a bunch of lame jokes (like having Prudence - as in Dear Prudence- break into an apartment by climbing into the bathroom window , and then have one of the characters say, "She came in through the bathroom window") ... let's just say, a little of this Beatles self-referencing goes a long way.

That said, Across the Universe, as lame as it's plot is (a sort of mini history of the turbulent 60's as witnessed by several characters), still manages to delight and astound the viewer with some wonderful moments. For instance, the scene when Jude (Jim Sturgess) realizes that he is falling in love with Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) while at a bowling alley; he breaks out into "I've Just Seen a Face", and suddenly the lanes of the blue collar alley are filled with dancing and people gliding up and down the aisles while Technicolor lighting washes over everyone, it's pure Busby Berkeley and just fucking brilliant!

Another favorite moment comes when Max (Joe Anderson) shows up at an Army induction center to be processed for the draft. Upon entering, a huge poster of Uncle Sam comes to life and begins singing, "I Want You". And then, Max's drama at the Draft Board is turned into a semi-homo-erotic performance piece as soldiers in square jawed masks dance and manipulate young men dressed in nothing but underwear. But the moment of sheer genius in this portion of the film is when we see the soldiers-to-be carrying a giant Statue of Liberty in pallbearer style while singing, "She's So Heavy". By all means, this is the scene stealing, show stopping moment of Across the Universe.There are also several cameos in this movie. Bono (who is pretty damn good as the Timothy Leary-Like, Dr. Roberts -- who wrote a book called, "I am the Walrus" - get it? That's two Beatles puns for the price of one!), Eddie Izzard (as Mr. Kite, as in "Being for the Benefit of...") and a surprise pop up by the hotter-than-hell, Salma Hayek as a dancing nurse during the "Happiness is a Warm Gun" routine.

Unfortunately, stunt casting and a few show stoppers do not a great musical make. And while I am sure that director, Julie Taymor's heart was in the right place, it's really tough to take this movie seriously since, for all it's psychedelic earnestness, more often than not, it just kind of comes off like watching High School Musical after doing a hit of brown acid.

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