The long and winding musical
The following people will cherish the new Beatles-song musical, Across the Universe: those who love the Silver Beetles, those who watch for the synchronicity of The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, those who relish Tommy (1975) and The Wall (1982), those who risk eating Pop Rocks with soda, and those who do drugs.
Don’t do drugs.
Not only has this been "The Summer of ‘Suck-quels,’" (Bourne and Ocean’s excluded), but summer 2007 also seems to be the comeback attempt for faded genres, such as the western (3:10 to Yuma) and the musical (Hairspray).
And though many musicals are like eggnog – a little goes a long way – Across the Universe showcases an artistic richness, with its colorful production design, vibrant visual effects and soundtrack… unlike eggnog.
Indeed, the music alone is worth the admission price, featuring more than 30, well-done Beatles cover tunes that play more like music videos than musical numbers. According to Amazon.com, the CD soundtrack has 16 of the 30-plus songs, which would be money well spent.
By the way, Across the Universe is rated PG-13, but conservative viewers will likely disagree with this rating, due to more than one instance of "artistically depicted" nudity.
Much like the Broadway musical Movin’ Out, which further develops the storylines of characters in Billy Joel songs, Across the Universe creates a screenplay that loosely incorporates The Beatles’ songs’ characters and concepts into the story.
It is the 1960s and the Vietnam War is underway. Jude (Jim Sturgess) travels from Liverpool, England to Princeton, N.J. to meet someone who played a significant, rather enjoyable role in his past. During his visit, Jude encounters Max (Joe Anderson) and his sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood).
The siblings become fast friends with Jude, so they eventually end up living in New York City, meeting other characters with Beatles song names, such as JoJo and Prudence.
Max receives an unlucky invitation. Lucy passionately protests the war, supplying unmistakable parallels to present-day arguments against the Iraq War. And Jude wanders amid the colorful mayhem, singing songs, looking sad and being British.
In truth, not very much happens in Across the Universe, especially considering its overlong 131-minute runtime. But Beatles freaks, even the purists, will enjoy the buried nuggets that nod to the knowledgeable fans who, like Maxwell, are "silver hammer men" (or women).
Addenda: Speaking of the Piano Man, Billy Joel himself will be performing at Salt Lake’s EnergySolutions Arena Nov. 29. And, you can find out why Pop Rocks pop, the candy’s history and other need-to-know info at www.poprockscandy.com