The View From Here

Why Across The Universe is the worst film you'll see this year

Michael Bonner

And considering the competition -- Spider-Man 3, Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End -- that takes some beating. Admittedly, last week saw something of a bumper crop of UNCUT friendly movies (The Assassination Of Jesse James, American Gangster, The Darjeeling Limited), but all the same -- Across The Universe is a truly dreadful film.

The story takes place in the late Sixties, where a young Scouse lad called Jude (that's Jude) heads off to America in search of his father. He winds up in Greenwich Village with a girl called Lucy (that's Lucy) and her boho hipster chums Sadie, JoJo, Prudence and Maxwell, who does indeed brandish a silver hammer at one point during the proceedings.

These hoopy froods run up against just the kind of pesky life problems you'd expect to encounter in the Age of Aquarius. There's a war in Vietnam, man, and the students are becoming radicalised. There's drug-soaked hippie gurus to tune in with, rock bands to form, and the Lennon-McCartney songbook to demolish with ham-fisted ineptitude.

In one of the film's many jaw-droppingly bad moments, Bono appears as Dr Robert, a Ken Kesey-esque figure in loopy, tinted Lennon shades, a handlebar moustache and a cowboy hat, singing an excruciating version of "I Am The Walrus". And this is even after Eddie Izzard's Mr Kite has done some appalling, sub-Python turn in a tent.

It goes from worse to dreadful, culminating in a rooftop gig where the entire cast boom out "All You Need Is Love".

I'm not particularly precious about The Beatles, so please don't think I'm getting in a lather about their back catalogue being subjected to the kind of grim torture that, by rights, should have been outlawed long ago under the Geneva Convention. My problem here is the crushing witlessness with which the filmmakers have bolted Beatles' songs onto the narrative. In one scene, Prudence (that's Prudence) locks herself in a closet and refuses to come out. So, one by one, the cast members gather round the door and exhort her in song to come out and "greet the brand new day". Yes, it's genuinely that bad.

It's just shockingly inept filmmaking. Quite what possessed The Beatles' estate to allow their songs to be used in this film is a mystery.

And what compounds the grinding misery here is that the film was written by Dick Clement and Ian LeFresnais, the gentlemen who in a previous life wrote Porridge and The Likely Lads and clearly should know a lot better that this.

It opens this Friday in the UK, should you be brave enough to go and see it.


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