‘Across the Universe’ | Throwback Review: One Trippy and Forgettable Musical

Across the Universe explores the musical genre as this is a jukebox musical proving the 34 brilliant songs of The Beatles. Though the idea sounded like it could be impressive, it didn’t live up to high expectations. Director Julie Taymor (Frida, Broadway’s The Lion King) does prove she has a visionary mind shown throughout, but it didn’t flow in trying to make this story work at times.

Now, I didn’t see this in theaters since I think it was only playing in small Indie theaters at the time. The first time I caught, it was on a cruise and missed the first half. I had no idea what was happening, and then I watched it in its entirety later on. But I can remember it being a bit polarizing as some think it’s genius, while some think it’s too much to understand. Across the Universe just came across as the most mixed-bag musical I sat through in a long time.

As it stands, this might’ve been better off as a Broadway musical instead of a feature-length feature, in my opinion. The ranges from love, war, and politics all shoved into a story that isn’t primarily important for anyone to follow. Though thinking having a strong plot isn’t important for a musical, there still needs to be some relevant to everything in between the musical sequences. Having this set in the ’60s, everything that’s surrounding the war felt a bit forced upon as it wants to be more dramatic to the harsh time period.

With Across the Universe showcasing the love between Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), both named after classic Beales songs “Hey Jude” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, there wasn’t any real connection between the two of them, even though they gave better performances before and after this came out 12 years ago. Joe Anderson as Max, Lucy’s older brother and Jude’s friend, also gives a charismatic performance that actually lightens up the movie when it needs to.

But what I can say is the best part about the movie as a whole are the renditions of the Beatles songs. When this came out, I wasn’t into the band at the time. But since I got older, I can totally understand why it has so many fans over many decades. It wasn’t until I watched this that made me want to listen to them more. The arrangements of the songs weren’t too bad, to be honest. I think the best covers came from “Hey Jude” (my favorite Beatles song), “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (which played during the end credits), and “Let It Be”. The actual sequences, however, were sometimes engaging and questionable at the same time.

The problem when it’s being presented with the different musical sequences, it’s poorly timed when transitioning. But if you want to have fun with this, there are a few moments when it feels like you’re brain is taking a mini acid trip. For example, Bono appears in a cameo singing “I Am the Walrus” while the characters are taken on an LSD trip. Makes sense? I thought I was having a heart attack on the first viewing. Or how about when Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite of “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” performs the song in this weird musical number that’s kind of painful?

Was hoping this was going to be a musical I can talk about for ages. Even Rent, another well-known musical to come from Sony and Revolution Studios, was better than this, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the film adaptation of that.

So while Across the Universe is ambitious with its solid covers of The Beatles, it lacked an interesting story and development of its characters in a musical that’s very style over substance. Even when I still feel very mixed with this, the soundtrack is something that I often listen to. I just know there’s a great movie hidden somewhere in Across the Universe that Taymor directed, but it ain’t this for sure. If you’re a hardcore Beatles fan, you’ll probably find a bit of fun with this.

Grade: C

Cast: Jim Sturgess, Evan Rachel Wood, Joe Anderson, T.V. Carpio, Dana Fuchs, Martin Luther McCoy

Director: Julie Taymor

Writer(s): Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais

Runtime: 133 Minutes

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