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In a beautiful written piece for the New York Times, Trevor Noah paints a picture of his childhood with his mother

Across the Universe

2008-01-10 16:38
What it's about:

An English dock worker Jude (Jim Sturgess) journeys to the USA in the 1960s in search of his estranged father. He falls in love with poor little rich girl American teenager Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), all against the background of the Vietnam War and the 60s musical explosion. Will their differences divide them?

What we thought of it:

If The Beatles weren't such good songwriters, if the actors weren't so pretty, if the musical cast weren't so damn talented, and if movie FX weren't so high-tech these days, Across the Universe would have been not much better than a bad Duck Chowles production captured on tape.

Luckily, The Beatles were pretty good songwriters – so good that their music responds as supply to new treatments as Yoko on a yoga mat. Luckily the actors (specially the cutesy-blonde Evan Rachel Wood) look really good in gym clothes, in hippiewear and in absolutely nothing. Luckily Salma Hayek is bewitching as a team of nurses. Luckily top talents like Bono and Dana Fuchs step in to sing.

Some of the over-familiar Beatles songs are given darker and more interesting treatment than you may expect – "Strawberry Fields" in a disturbing and bloody painting scene for instance. The switch in America's state of mind from the apparent innocence of the early 1960s with its Lolita-teen goodness to the idealism of the 60s with its hippy-chick goodness is nicely done. Read: "Your dad will dig it and you don't want to be around to see that, trust me." To summarise, it beats Roll Over Beethoven. But only by inches.

For the most part, Across the Universe is painful and embarrassing. When the instant lead role-lover Jude identifies himself, you'll know with a groan that they're going to whip out that old number "Hey Jude" for a big musical moment when times get rough. Same goes for "Dear Prudence". "She's So Heavy" is ruined forever by an image of miniature soldiers carrying the Statue of Liberty around Iraq. Sorry… Vietnam. These kind of grindingly literal interpretations will make your stale popcorn difficult to swallow, no matter how much flat soda you wash it down with. Across the Universe is really just a series of music videos made by the same person and linked by cheesy dialogue.

If you're hoping for anything like the same level of artistry as director Julie Taymor achieved with the marvelous Frida (2002), don't waste your time. And Julie, please, leave the daring borderline-kitsch musicals to Baz.

- Jean Barker
Across the Universe is a love story scored by The Beatles and is really just a series of music videos made by the same person and linked by cheesy dialogue.

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Jimmy 2007-11-04 08:32 AM
SHADES OF "THE LION KING"? It's interesting that your review accuses Julie Taymor's film of being all froth, so to speak, and no substance. Isn't her South African production of "The Lion King" just that, as well? Take away the costumes, which become horribly distracting after a while, and remove the two standout special effects, and you have an empty shell, poorly performed and with no heart. It's surprising that SA audiences are so gullible. My advice, for what it's worth? Give the two Taymor productions a wide berth and rather spend your hard earned money on the stage production of "Hairspray", across town. It's a considerable step-up on the wishy-washy film version.
Galamatias 2007-12-04 09:40 AM
Yellow Sub meets High School Musical Visually splendid, but cringeworthy when it gets too literal. Nice to see Eddie Izzard get a chance to ham it up, but Bono should get back to saving Africa and all humanity. At best the fim is a live action Yellow Submarine mixed with lots of High School Musical. Thankfully no one told Jojo to get back or complained about sexy Sadie ...
Glo 2008-03-30 10:15 PM
The blast from the past.......strung together, incoherent...... Any film from the 60's make me emotional. This film actually depicted what is was like to live through it....people were strung out, incoherent, crazy, confused; yet innocent and challenged beyond social norms. You all may think the story line was weak; I disagree. The "love is all you need" anthem was the creed many of us lived and believed in at the time. The psychedelics, the riots, racial wars, young men killed in the war, and MUSIC were all part of our everyday lives. Almost all of my friends avoided the draft. Some still live in Canada. We hitchhiked everywhere because not everyone had a car. We all lived together in apartments & houses just as the characters did in the movie. I think there was some serious thought & research that went into this film, and it DEFINITELY captured the emotional climate of the times. Maybe you had to live through it to really appreciate it. Not everyone who was alive at the time actually lived through what went on........I guess I did.

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