Tommy - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Tommy Reviews

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July 4, 2016
a marvellous soundtrack, and a very nice script
½ June 9, 2016
If Ken Russell's "Tommy" were an animal, it'd be a greasy, rabid one, foaming at the mouth, quivering maniacally, and darting around the premises desperately looking for a piece of flesh to rip apart. It believes in excess and excess only - it's like a train about to fly off the rails for nearly two hours, always ready to disastrously crash only to somehow maintain a balance we can't quite comprehend. "Tommy is so overstuffed with ideas and vigor that there comes a point in which we expect, if not desire for, its momentum to come to a screeching halt.
And yet it never does collapse on itself. Anticipated fatigue reaches us - any movie that moves as violently spastic as this one does is bound to drain any viewer that comes across it - but Russell's seemingly chaotic staging is so meticulously chaotic that it maintains its lunacy like a shaken soda about to be opened, with the potential to explode but never actually releasing all its energy in order to jump back to point A. The film is an orgy of musical dementia that retains its dementia with impressive steadiness.
Its hysteria isn't for nothing: "Tommy" is based upon The Who's 1969 rock opera album of the same name, which, in itself, is legendary for its many amenities and its many artistic risks. Its centerpiece is "Pinball Wizard," a classic song that, if you don't already know, tells the story of a young man named Tommy, a deaf, dumb, and blind kid with an inscrutable ability to play a mean game of pinball.
Naturally, the movie is about him (played by The Who's frontman, Roger Daltrey), beginning with his birth in 1945 and ending with his reawakening as a much-worshipped figure of enlightenment in the modern world. "Tommy" is vaguely enwrapped in the need to tell a conventional story - his torrid relationships with his mother (Ann-Margret) and stepfather (Oliver Reed) are indispensable, and his eventual transforming into a wizard of pinball is the very thing that leads the film into territories of ambitious social commentary - but it's so stylistically exorbitant that any attempt it makes at being revelatory or monumental is desultory, to say the least.
Because this is the kind of film that features an Ann-Margret centered song-and-dance sequence that, by its end, leaves her covered in hundreds of pounds of baked beans (I won't bother with an explanation). It's the kind of film that provides its characters with names straight out of its own sort of Wonderland, ranging from The Acid Queen to The Preacher to The Specialist. And it's also the kind of film that involves a subplot revolving around a cult that worships Marilyn Monroe, integrating cameo appearances from Elton John, Tina Turner, Jack Nicholson, and Eric Clapton as if it were to casual and off-the-cuff.
There's a lot going on at all times - all dialogue is sung, and the blue-ribbon soundtrack obsessively permeates the atmosphere - and so our initially vitalized response to "Tommy" quickly sours into blatant burnout. It's magnificently original, expertly acted, and resplendently directed. But it's also so much. It's a hurricane of cinematic benevolence that runs for far too long; while its storyline is deserving of long-winded telling, the druggy energy level is too exhausting for us to want to get there. It's a masterpiece 75% of the time, its tantalization fresher than ever. The pitfalls of its 25% either has to do with its failed attempts at satire (more fun to talk about than to watch) or its terminal Too Much At One Time syndrome. Solidified opinion on either varies.
But it's still a must-watch, mostly because Russell's sweaty aspiration only gets better with age, because the soundtrack really is amazing, and because Margret, not to mention co-stars Reed and the all-too-briefly breathtaking Turner, give unforgettably uninhibited performances. It's a lot to take in. But its unconformity is agelessly pristine, and it does most of what it attempts to do quite well. Just make sure to take a deep breath before the viewing process begins: this isn't your average movie musical.
½ March 29, 2016
Incredibly bizarre. I think I would have been completely lost if I hadn't heard the album before or seen the play versions. Though I guess nobody really had to worry about that in the 70s. That said, INCREDIBLY enjoyable but just too incoherent to be a really solid movie.
½ December 11, 2015
The film wasn't that great, but I love the soundtrack! Hell, I have the soundtrack on CD.
August 17, 2015
I can appreciate the visuals and there are some songs that I like, but this isn't a musical I enjoy. It's definitely ambitious, but it also feels very dated and experimental, and I can't say I am a fan.
July 16, 2015
I love this film. Maybe I'm biased as I love The Who so much. I normally hate musicals but this is really good and certainly not the traditional type of musical, this is a rock opera.

Lots of famous faces in it. Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Oliver Reed, Elton John, Paul Nicholas, Jack Nicholson, Robert Powell etc. A classic!!
July 10, 2015
Listening To You I Get The Music......and that's the truth while watching Tommy based on The Who's rock opera. I will say from the get go that if your not a fan of rock music or The Who, just pass it up. No one wants to sit through music they don't like and I totally understand that. However, if you appreciate 70's rock music and more importantly a fan of The Who, then you have a musical treat in store for yourself. The film is indeed a true opera and every scene is a song from the album. There is no reg talking dialog just like Pink Floyds The Wall, another epic masterpiece. The interesting thing about the movie is how they decided the tone and feel of the film. They already obviously had the songs and I assume that Pete Townsend got together with the director Ken Russell and explained his vision. It's a absolutely bizarre musical journey unlike anything else out there in the 100 years of film making...well except for The Wall. The difference is that The Wall is serious and somewhat depressing in its tone and execution while Tommy is a humorist comic book style execution with dark shades of gaudiness and over the top characters.
The cast is fantastic and probably a dream team of sorts. You have the great Oliver Reed who plays the evil stepfather. His performance is so caricature and hilarious. People have criticized his singing capabilities but his performance is so great that it doesn't matter.
You also have Ann Margret, Jack Nicholson, Robert Powell, Tina Turner, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Paul Nicholas, Roger Daltry as Tommy and Keith Moon as evil Uncle Ernie. All of these great actors and musicians just add to the films experience.
This is the kind of film you put in and crank up the home theater sound and rock out with. If you don't get that kind of experience out of this then you're probably dead or at the very least, comatose.
A note here about the music in the film vs the album. I actually like the soundtrack to the film a bit better then the original album. It's faster, a little harder edge, a little louder and a couple of more songs then the album. I have both version on my MP3 and you can tell a difference.
June 13, 2015
Such a strange film. Makes little sense. The only scene I actually liked was the pinball wizard scene; it makes little sense as well but I like the song. The rest of the music didn't do much for me, not that it was bad. The performances are bold but all over the place, but the movie is directed well. I there was just too much acid involved, and the story too weak.
June 4, 2015
Some music is catchy, others not so much. It's also a really wacky film. Dark and campy at once. 2 hours of nothing but Who music has worn me out though lol
Super Reviewer
½ June 2, 2015
A young man grows up seemingly deaf and mute and becomes pinball champion and a leader of a religious cult.
If I were doing one-sentence reviews, I would simply write, "What the fuck?" and that would be that. Since I feel the need to write more substantive reviews - what the actual fuck? This film is nuts. The plot is weird and non-sensical, the cinematography is an LSD trip, and the acting is over-blown. That said, Tommy is also a hell of a ride. Consistently engaging, it kept me guessing, and some of the musical numbers are well-choreographed.
Overall ... what the actual fuck?
May 24, 2015
A movie that I saw a long time ago and decided to revisit so that I could review and what I got to say is that I appreciate the effort brought on to it, but it just wasn't my cup of tea and it frustrated me as I was watching it. Tommy is a movie in which there was no talking at all and it was just singing for the entire 1 hr and 50 min run time. It would have been good if the movie had managed to give me characters I cared about and more scenes that actually made sense, but it didn't do those things for me. There were a lot of really weird and bizarre scenes that felt really pointless, out-of-place, and they just made me question myself on why I was watching the movie in the first place. There were times where those type of scenes would just bring the film to a complete halt from the story being told. Style over substance is the perfect term to describe the movie and in my opinion, it only hurt it instead of benefiting it in my opinion. It is good to have singing in a musical, but I would have appreciated it more if it had actual dialogue scenes and not just rely on singing and weird dumb scenes to tell the film's so-called story. There were some credible songs in Tommy and I really did enjoy the Elton John Pinball Wizard segment, but many of the songs I thought were forgettable, and I never wanted to sing them after I got done watching the movie. All the actors did a good job singing and dancing to the songs but I just didn't get into most of them. Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and even South Park: Bigger longer, and Uncut are great and much better examples of musicals because they had more catchy songs and they all had great dialogue scenes and memorable characters and Tommy failed for the most part to bring me those things. Roger Daltrey did alright as the main character, but for the majority of the film he plays a deaf, dumb and blind person and I felt that I would be able the play the part just as good and he didn't bring much gravitas to the role. I enjoy his singing but in my opinion, that should be what he sticks to instead of acting in a feature film. Besides all of my problems with the movie, I didn't hate Tommy and there were just some enjoyable scenes with only a select few songs I liked and something else that stood out as a positive was the beautiful cinematography throughout the film.
½ May 21, 2015
This is one of my all time favorite films. Ken Russell meets The Who ...and brings Ann-Margret along for the ride. And, this is a cinematic ride. Unlike any film made prior to 1975, it is easy to count among the few artistic ventures that gave birth to the music video. Ken Russell's TOMMY remains a unique film that takes the concept of Rock Opera to a whole new level.
½ May 1, 2015
You haven't experienced Tommy, until you've seen it's movie. This is trippy. Everybody must of been high when they made this. But it's so entertaining. The cast nails it, and they go ballistic. The songs are just as good as they were on the album. You've got to see this thing.
½ March 18, 2015
The problem with making a rock-opera film based on a pre-existing piece of work is that lyrically things are so literal that the need for subtlety is completely ignored. Throw in the bluntness of the symbolic imagery (whose intent is never quite clear...funny or poignant?) and Tommy becomes a visually interesting but ultimately too-goofy piece of 70s art.
March 16, 2015
Excellent Musical, With Some Great Actors/Singers. Based On Pete Townsend's Rock Opera, Which Was Released In 1969, It Tells The Story Of Tommy Walker, A Boy Who Is Deaf, Dumb & Blind Due To A Traumatic Event In His Childhood. He Eventually Gains Fame & Becomes A Pinball Champion. Hard To Understand In Places, But The Films Soundtrack Is Excellent From Start To Finish, Not A Weak Song In Sight. A Great Cast Features, Ann-Margaret, Oliver Reed & Roger Daltrey As Tommy. Guest Stars Are Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Jack Nicholson, Robert Powell, Paul Nicholas, Tina Turner & Elton John As The Pinball Wizard. All Members Of The Who Appear As Themselves (Apart From Daltrey).
February 21, 2015
Tommy is a rock opera by the who directed by Ken Russell. Mixing bizarre and inspired visuals to great music, the film manages to tell an interesting and fairly coherent story. The cast includes such talents as Roger Daltry as Tommy, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Elton John, Oliver Reed, Jack Nicholson and Ann Margret. Tommy is a fantastic and very unique kind of musical and great work of art. This is a must see for fans of Ken Russel or The Who.
January 28, 2015
What is the story arc here? Who cares, The Who goddamn rules.
½ January 23, 2015
Tommy has some great music, some great visuals, and some great social commentary, though some music doesn't sound as good as the album version its still worth watching.
½ October 19, 2014
The music is good, but this is a strange film. Perhaps someone who grew up in the seventies, could explain it to me.
September 15, 2014
The most inventive movie musical since "The Wizard of Oz," and though they bear no resemblance to each other, they should both be considered masterpieces. What "Oz" had in wholesome charm and delightful quirkiness, "Tommy" has in unashamed excess and a dark, twisted sense of whimsy and caprice. And while none of the characters around Tommy stand out as saints or even decent people, such a cut-and-dry approach to drama works well in a filmed opera--which, it should never be forgotten, is what this is. That means ludicrous sets and costumes, preposterous set pieces, blaring music and acting that's so far over the top it can't see, feel, touch or heal it. So if that frightens you, you should definitely stay away from this one. But it is superb when a director actually tackles an opera with the appropriate heft and dedication.
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