Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Reviews
I have to start by letting you know what the producers thought this film was going to be. They considered this as the Gone with the Wind of the '70's generation. I shit you not. They were obviously on good drugs in 1977-78 because I wouldn't even call this film Break Like The Wind.
We have to begin with the leads. You have Peter Frampton, who put out some live album and then was never really heard from again. He's like Warren Zevon except Zevon had TALENT! So we get Frampton butchering Beatle tunes. But that's not all. That's not the worst of it. Guess who else gets to shit on the moniker of Lennon/McCartney. That's right, the Bee Gees. The Brothers Gibb weren't satisfied with destroying most of late '70's popular music, they had to wreck most of the '60's, too.
But that's not all. It's actually down hill from this point with each musical interlude more cringeworthy than the next. Donald Pleasence singing I Want You (She's So Heavy). No, it gets worse. How about Steve Martin puking up Maxwell's Silver Hammer? No, it gets worse. Alice Cooper doing Because. It keeps getting worse and worse until you just can't take it. You have to exit the room and defecate because it's one piece of shit after another.
Sgt. Pepper also jumps on the Star Wars band wagon. There's an odd little duel with hammers that light up and glow like- yes, you guessed it- lightsabers. And Mr. Mustard has to C3PO's with boobs
massaging him throughout the film. Oh, and apparently Billy Preston can raise the dead (and change your clothes).
Films like this are usually horrible, especially when the songs are taken out of the context that they were meant to be. Across the Universe is another such crapfest that features people who shouldn't be singing Beatle songs. Listen, if I wanted to hear people sing Beatles tunes badly around a gazebo I would take my iPod to the park. Such a horrible, horrible film using the music of the Beatles, particularly the Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road albums is like eating and egg salad sandwich from a gas station- it looks good in the plastic but it consumes worth shit.
The minute John Lennon died his first act was rolling over because of the stench this film has left on society. You may be wondering why if this film is so bad am I giving it one star. Well, not to be a plot spoiler, but the villains spouting off against love and promoting money is the '70's coked up Aerosmith. They're called some kind of villain band and actually do a good coked up rendition of Come Together that still gets a little airplay. As I sat there I realized that this film is really a choice: you can be bad and go with Aerosmith or be good and hang out with George Burns and the Bee Gees. So it looks like I'm going to hell.
Costing an estimated $18 million, the film was disappointed to find that it barely grossed past its budget, seeing as how it wasn't the priciest of films with status this high, which isn't to say that this film didn't spend what money it had well, for although the production value of this effort isn't glowing, if nothing else about this messy final product can be complimented as consistent strengths, it is Brian Eatwell's production designs and May Routh's costume designs, which colorfully spring this admittedly flashy world to life with a flare that ranges from nifty to genuinely rather dazzling. When it comes to visuals, I find difficulty in denying that this film delivers, because no matter how messy the substance is, style is reasonably sharp in some parts, and that livens things up a bit, though not as much as a certain major aspect in this film that has been complimented and criticized time and again: the soundtrack. A star-studded jukebox musical that celebrates many a classic by the Beatles, this film is driven by its soundtrack, which is not only a questionable key aspect to storytelling, but filled with fall-flat interpretations of Beatles songs that emphasize the original versions' undeniable cheesiness through sometimes embarrassing overstylizing, thus making for a soundtrack that hardly consistently works, but still manages to work just enough to turn in plenty of entertaining tunes that do a decent job of capturing their source materials' colorfulness in a typically unique fashion that is bound to keep you from falling out of the mess entirely. There is a weak musical number for every decent, if not genuinely good one (In all seriousness, Areosmith's "Come Together" is "the" highlight, and they're ironically presented in the film as definitive opponents of decency), but seeing as how this film is so driven by its musical aspects, the high points in the soundtrack do about as much as anything in saving the film, if not providing a small taste of what could have been: decency, but not much more than that. Yeah, there's not much to this film, and that really emphasizes what is so very wrong with this misguided project, and yet, at the same time, what strengths there are also go emphasized by the film's not being so demanding, supplementing a mild degree of entertainment value that is itself complimentary to a certain degree of charm, spawned from ambition that is hard to miss. Needless to say, while it isn't all that demanding, the ambition behind this film goes seriously unfulfilled by glaring flaws, of which there are many, though not so many that I found it hard to see the strengths that are in limited supply, but no less present as somewhat lively notes that guide the final product's narrow escape from contempt. Still, while the film goes saved by what handful of things it does reasonably well, it comes close to collapsing into disdain, which is ultimately kept at bay, yet made much too visible to battle back mediocrity, reinforced by an abundance of flaws, some of which can even be found within the musical aspects.
Again, there are highlights in the soundtrack, and they do a lot in almost saving the final product, but in so many ways, the music works to this musical's detriment, not just because plenty of numbers are weak, but because the musical storytelling aspects of this film hardly work, partially because the leaps between the unevenly used spoken word narration type of storytelling - powered by George Burns - and most prominent musical storytelling prove be about as jarring as the occasional considerable tonal shift that comes with sudden changes in certain songs of distinct types, and largely because the tight flow of musical narrative keeps you from meditating upon the progression of the "story", which is kind of ironic, seeing as how when this film is careful to not sum up too much with the musical number, it ends up having the music blandly meander along one sequence, sometimes dully. Like I said, there are entertaining spells that go anchored by the musicality, but there are dull spots which are also anchored by the musicality, or at least misusage of the musicality in the context of the telling of what story there is, which isn't to say that the performers in this film do more than just turn in both overbearing musical numbers and, well, some unconvincing attempts at lip-syncing. There's certainly not a whole for our performers to work with, so it's not like there are a whole lot of weak notes within the cast, some of whose members charm enough to earn a bit of your appreciation, but when the acting faults, there's no missing it, because we're talking about a cast that is mostly comprised of musicians with little, if any acting background who were crammed in simply because of the magnitude of their name, whose respectability is kind of shaken by unconvincing, if not cheesy physical acting that ranges from disconcerting to near-frustrating. Again, the occasional charming performer earns your attention, but on the whole, the mediocrity, if not incompetence of the acting hurts the effectiveness of this film's substance, which was, of course, never to be too rich, because what we have here is a paper-thin, overwhelmingly fluffy story concept that has little going for it, and would be easier to swallow if it wasn't so bland and uncompelling, even when it comes to the concept, whose execution into an aimless, unfocused narrative gets to be monotonous something fierce. Clocking in at just shy of two hours, this mindlessly directionless mess of a film outstays its welcome, being not so frustratingly overblown that it earns disdain, but certainly too long to have so much fluff, which makes things all the more irritating by getting mighty carried away time and again. Not simply paper-thin, this film's story is all-out dumb, and sure, the deliberateness of this "plot's" stupidity is obvious and could have added to the charming entertainment value, but ends up being much too milked by over-the-top cheesiness that results in lame jokes, painfully overbearing themes and embarrassing set piece, after embarrassing set piece, until the film ends up drowned in corniness whose liveliness can't even be consistently soaked up through the blandness. Sure, when the film doesn't have its entertaining moments, it's simply too bland to be bad, and such a formula, while kind of aggravating, saves the final product from contempt, but make no mistake, this film is an overblown, unfocused, cheesy and all around misguided mess that falls every bit as short of likability as it falls short of disdain, directly into mediocrity, at the absolute best.
When the day in a life is done, sharp production value, high points in the musical numbers and entertaining moments compliment the undeniable degree of charm within ambition that save the film from a collapse into contempt, but cannot dilute the sting of the unevenness, meandering spells and weakness within many a musical number, questionable occasions in acting, conceptually bland and aimlessly told "story", and overwhelming cheesiness that make Michael Schultz's "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" a messily misguided borderline disaster that could be worse, but is still much too sloppy to be genuinely likable.
2/5 - Weak