by Kristin Battestella
Well You’ve all waited for my next review and instead you get this analysis of cheese, I know. I like Pepper for all its Gibby guffaw, but this review won’t be easy. I’ll mention what’s good and quirky first then topple on the bad and the nitpicks! Tooshay!
Well, there’s The Opening Footage. At least they tried to have a backstory, however hokey it is. Burns narration helps fill in the gaps. The varying renditions of the title song are a nice touch. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band introduces The Hendersons, and sure I am Gibb-biased, but the Bee Gees sound like The Beatles. Maurice once again seems to get the short end of the stick, stuck in the back fiddling with the drums, but oh dear Lord get Robin away from that toy guitar!
With a Little Help from My Friends brings Peter Frampton’s introduction while wearing a pink shirt and white overalls with hearts all over them. My 6 and 7 year old nieces don’t even wear that. I don’t care for Frampton at all really, but I shall try to be nice in my review. I like how Strawberry is supposed to sing along, but she doesn’t quite know the words does she?
Fixing a Hole to me means fixing the loophole in George Burns’ contract that says he gets to sing. The only good part is...um. My nieces sing along and like the little kiddies playing about with Burnsy. Yeah, that’s it. This really is a very poor rendition of the song, and Burns isn’t Fred Astaire. Do we really need another poor imaginary sequence that does nothing to advance the story of the Band making it big? Oh let’s skip this one. Getting Better always gets stuck in my head. The BD bad music executive is introduced here with chick star Lucy. And no I’m not mentioning his name because it gets changed in the movie, twice. This is a good sequence though. The music sounds good and the quote unquote story is progressed through the scene. Wow.
Here Comes The Sun is the first song presented by Sandy Farina. It’s nice to hear a female voice every once in a great while. Farina’s rendition is okay. The hearts on Billy’s truck are a cute tie in, too. However, Heartland’s best mode of transportation is a hot air balloon? Totally implausible, but it’s all in good fun. Especially when Robin’s character Dave pukes. Frampton’s acting when he pretends to wake up is very weak. Besides, are we supposed to believe nothing happened between these two lovebirds on the eve one is going away to seek fame and fortune? It’s also a shame this is the only George Harrison ode in the film.
The She’s So Heavysequence is the most Tommy like of the entire film. The movie should have stayed in this vein. Look how scary and edgy and racy the music biz is! All the singing is well choreographed, and the limo like car is funny. When did they switch to that tiny plane? And how can Lucy be driving the car, be a mannequin, a prostitute, on a motorcycle, at the pool, and the photographer? Also, notice Maurice this sequence. He is the ‘what to do in the background when no one is supposed to be watching’ master!
While I praise this aspect, this sequence is also the one that you cringe at when the kids are watching, and you hope they don’t ask questions. The drinking and drug use is a bit much, much less the adult video place the boys drive by. Is this movie supposed to be dark and edgy like Tommy or cutesy cheese for the kiddies? The bipolar nature of the movie is where it’s trouble lies.
I love it when the trashed gang wakes up to Paul Nicholas’ Good Morning shout outs. Again a tune that is strengthened by the Brothers backing contributions. Like Getting Better, a scene that is part of the story. Do you think they had a tough time getting all those extras of screaming girls? The little “BD TV” graphic is cool, too. It leads right into Barry’s rendition of Nowhere Man. While the television special and concert sequences here help the story of the boys popularity move along, this version of Nowhere Man is unnecessarily slowed. It is kind of an odd moment, but Barry sounds pretty.
Soul Jam Barry appears in the Polythene Pam segment. Again how much did they pay the girl who got to scream and run on stage? This whole concert segment is well done. If you are telling a story about a band’s rise to fame, best show them in concert! I like She Came In Through The Bathroom Window. Frampton does his best here. It reminds me of his Comes Alive stuff that everyone thinks is so great. Maybe he is his best in concert so this scene fits him. He looks like he is having fun and I even sing along. Without dialogue, they use these newspaper like graphics during the concert to relay the story. It’s a nice detail, but it could have been done better. At one point the movie is squished into one little newspaper block, and it’s kind of annoying. And Robin still has that guitar. It’s frightening.
And I begrudgingly come to Mean Mr. Mustard. This is a totally poor rendition and I wish they had used a better song to develop the sequence. Mustard is told by the Future Villian Band to steal Sgt Pepper’s instruments from the Heartland museum. He takes over the town, turning it into some very trashy looking stuff. It says an arcade, but again there are some dicey movements in the dancing not meant for kids. Why are you putting something dicey in a kiddie storyline? Mr. Kite is tied up at one point, so the film loses narration for the next three songs.
The narration serves a purpose sometimes but it also is a bit of “How does Mr. Kite know?!” kind of thing. Like when Captain Kirk could make entries to his Captain’s Log while imprisoned back in time on an alien planet. Go fig. At least there is some story developing. The next three sequences are perhaps the best here. She’s Leaving Home presents Strawberry upset with what’s happening in Heartland so she leaves town to find the Band. The singing in this one is pretty cool, and the action on screen is exactly what’s being said in the lyrics.
Oh yes! Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds! The female rendition of this one is great, even if the premise is implausible. Strawberry gets off the bus in the big city, spots the Big D billboard and imagines the whole song. It sounds really hokey but it is also to me a very ingenious way to get the song onscreen. Besides, zooming in and watching the dirty dancing going on in this one is hysterical! Strawberry goes to the studio, where Robin is singing Oh Darling. Again he is singing, and very well, and yes this is a musical, but there is a reason and a place onscreen where the song is coming from. The subtleties in this sequence are great. From the almost shot of Lucy’s boob, to Robin getting his hair yanked when he forgets to take off his headphones.
And now the film really goes to $%^&. George Burns’ narration inexplicably returns to tell us the boys are stealing Mustard’s van and going to save Heartland by rescuing the instruments from The Future Villian Band’s vile agents! However, There is some cool interplay between Barry and Maurice and Mustard’s computerettes. You know, watching this without sound would be an interesting experiment.
Maxwell Silver Hammer is the first singing villian given to us in Steve Martin attempting to sing. The choreography is pathetic at points and the fight scenes (if you can call them that) are a joke. At least Because brings us Alice Cooper’s unique version, even if the whole FVB thing is stupid. The boys crawling into Cooper’s lair is really funny though, and again, Maurice steals the show while Billy ends up unconscious two songs in a row. The way they freeze frame the endings of these songs is really funny, too.
Strawberry Fields Forever slows things down very stupidly. Farina’s title song isn’t bad, but she’s got to sing Billy Shears back to health? Okay. It’s even more hokey fun when we see how Billy is dreaming of Strawberry in all the spots where Lucy was on his kinky ride to fame. However, Billy imagines Strawberry in the ‘Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds’ segment, even though the Lucy segment was a figment of Strawberry’s imagination!
Yes I bet you are totally confused, so am I. Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite tries to get the film back on track with Paul Nicholas’ Dougie planning a benefit to save Heartland. This is an incredibly stupid looking scene, with circus people and horses on roller skates. Just close your eyes and listen to Maurice sing his one lead.
You Never Give Me Your Money is the one bright spot since the film turned into this whole Save Heartland joke. There is actually some sort of character development and sequence in the song. First they hated each other and now Lucy and Dougie have combined their love of money. This musical symbolism is very well done, almost like a real old time musical.
Not that this is really a bad bad, but did anyone else notice the raunch factor in this one? What kind of choreography is this? ’Oh let’s run around the wax statue of the dead Sgt Pepper! Yeah! And Lucy, be sure and show you’re underwear!’ The singing and the song itself are catchy, but the bumping and grinding and rolling on the money are a bit too much for the kiddies.
Earth, Wind, and Fire are billed as themselves here, performing Got To Get You Into My Life for Heartland’s Benefit. They put on an expert show, but naturally they have to cut to the boys singing and clapping in the audience. It might be the quintessential sum up of how much the brothers hated making this movie. The looks on their faces are so God We don’t want to be here!
And no wonder with such classics as When I’m 64. Mustard kidnaps Strawberry and they ruin this great song. Burns’ narration is so far gone, you want to pull the film back and rip him away from his little off camera microphone. I guess it depends on your mood, but most of the time I find the boys jumping in their Heartland Hot Air Balloon and magically changing into their aviator outfits totally stupid. I mean the way they look is just...cheese.
And alas we meet the Future Villian Band for Come Together. Aerosmith’s rendition is awesome, even if the idea of them turning Strawberry into ‘a mindless groupie’ is really dumb. Besides she already is one! Again we get another hokey fight scene, but upon my first viewing, this was the one moment in the film I held my breath over. It looks really cool when Strawberry plummets to her death!
Golden Slumbers and Carry That Wait relay the funeral scene well in theory. The songs fit, but Frampton’s honest to goodness fake tears kind of kill it. I did enjoy seeing the bads line up for the funeral. Did they even know Strawberry? Again my Gibb-biased self must give props to the brothers’ pouting close-ups. The silent interplay between them in this supposedly serious sequence is great. They pine during The Long and Winding Road while we are treated to another song lessened by Frampton. He roams Heartland reminiscing about his life with Strawberry -in flashback scenes that we didn’t see the action of in the movie prior to this moment, but hey. What really bugs me is in the flashbacks there is a dog. What happened to the dog?!
Barry gets his moment to shine with A Day in The Life. His voice here is the most Beatle-esque and only he could carry this tune the way it should be. The way he looks in the scenes and the flashbacks of when things were good with the band set the song off.
Not that a film like this could possibly have a plausible ending, but Get Back delivers on the out and out hokey of the film. The Sgt Pepper weather vane mystically turns into the soul of Sgt Pepper-Billy Preston? He stops Billy Shears from killing himself, turns all the baddies into nuns, polishes up the boys’ white suits, and brings Strawberry back to life. Yes that is what it says. I hope I didn’t spoil it too much. 80)
And thank God the Sgt Pepper Reprise signals the end of the film! Who are all those famous people appearing, anyway? I can name like ten of them on sight! That is sad on their part. Then again, the ladies will enjoy zooming in on the brothers’ white suits. Trust me.
I should also give some details about the movie itself. About how the Bee Gees didn’t want to star with Peter Frampton in this horrible musical of Beatles tunes and that the bad box office sales ruined the RSO organization. However, all of this and that can’t quite be explained until you actually see the movie. So go get the dvd! Um, I said now.