Across the Universe

February 11th, 2008 by Ghost

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Fairly arresting both visually and aurally, but ultimately tedious, boring, and self indulgent.

I’ll state for the jury that maybe I’m not the target audience for this picture. I say this because I’m not exactly a music fan, I don’t have any particular attachment to any genre or musical style, and I certainly don’t have any connection with, or love for, the songs of the Beatles. These admissions aside, I am not attempting to apologize for the faults I found with “Across the Universe”. My biggest problems aren’t with the songs or the music at all, but rather, well, almost everything else.

You’ve got it all here; free love hippies, confused youths, uptight parents, and best of all, an eyerollingly preachy antiwar message that checks subtlety at the door. A Liverpool resident who leaves his queen and country to search for his father in America, Jude, played by Jim Sturges is the focus of this film. Once he finds his father, almost immediately, at Princeton, Jude sticks around to make some friends, fall in love, sing some songs, and touch on every issue that’s ever been manhandled before in any movie about the confused, socially polarized, and completely stereotypical movie version of the 1960’s.

Be careful lifting your copy of “Across the Universe”; the thing is so bloated with extraneous characters and sequences that it threatens to leak out of your DVD player and get strawberry blood all over the carpet. It’s as if director Julie Taymor just crammed whatever idea about young people in the 60’s she had into the script,looped and knotted it into a Beatles song, and screamed “SHOOT IT!”. Tertiary characters are given far more screen time than they deserve, including at least one entire sequence that could be excised from the film completely and it would have no bearing on the ending, characters, or anything else that follows.

What starts as a promising film eventually just devolves into a muck of useless characters and by-the-numbers-pseudo-drama while you wait around for the next song and dance number. Though these are entertaining (some more-so than others) they aren’t all so great that 30+ minutes and more than one or two couldn’t have been sliced from the middle. I realize there was a story to tell, but the story is where the movie falls completely flat. “Across the Universe” isn’t an all-singing-all-dancing revue, Taymor wants us to care about these one dimensional characters, and that’s nearly impossible. The plot should tie the musical portions of the film together with some thread of emotional resonance, not have you reaching for the fast forward button.

As a musical “Across the Universe” mostly succeeds. The full on musical portions; the music, dancing, singing, and costumes are in some cases wildly successful, imaginative, and entertaining. As a film, however, it fails miserably; the over abundance of boring characters, lame plot, and hamfisted preaching drag the show down into a muddy tedium that the vibrantly colored frames just can’t recover from. While the film never fully collapses under all of this dead weight, when it finally ended, I was more than ready for it to be over.

**½

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