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Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Using the Beatles song catalog as an anchor to carry us thru the tumultuous late ‘60s may sound like an untenable, not to say pretentious idea, but the big surprise of Julie Taymor’s ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is that it’s even worse than you imagined. Making the song lyrics concrete (Jo-Jo, Lucy, Prudence, Jude, Sadie are just some of the character names) makes reductio ad absurdum hash of every phrase. You live in fear of the next inevitable song cue. But it’s mainly Taymor’s exhausting imagination that wears you out. She’s like a whole classroom of over-achieving Performing Arts honor kids. The story is not all that different than HAIR (best buds, Pop music, Vietnam, protests), but the soul of the film isn’t too far removed from the ghastly, infamous 1978 SGT. PEPPER film. Surprisingly, taking inflation into account, this film did just as poorly, yet somehow (no doubt because of the great on-stage success of THE LION KING) Taymor has become a critical untouchable. Even when she's the biggest bore in town. Yet at the very end of the film, she discards all the hyper-technical apparatus and pulls off a finale that’s simple & lovely. Where had this sensible person been hiding for the previous 2 hours?

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