Across the Universe **1/2 (out of ****)

Director: Julie Taymor
Writers: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, Julie Taymor
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, Rachel Wood, Dana Fuchs, T. V. Caprio, Bono
Rating: PG-13 (language, violence, nudity, drug use)
Running Time: 131 min
Release Date: 9/14/07 (limited), 10/12/07 (wide)

Across the Universe is a musical with a sound track of mostly Beatle’s songs. We start in Liverpool England as we follow Jude’s (Jim Sturgess) journey to America and though the turbulent ’60s. Jude, as in Hey Jude by the Beatles, is the illegitimate son of a U.S. World War II soldier with an address at Princeton University. He has the belief that his father might be an Einstein but he turns out to be the janitor. We are also introduced to a disenchanted cheerleader Prudence (T.V. Caprio) another character named after a Beatle’s song. She keeps popping in and out the plot at various places.

Jude becomes friends with Max (Joe Anderson), a Princeton freshman, more interested in drive golf balls from the roofs of Princeton’s buildings than his studies. He soon drops out and takes Jude to meet his family. This is where we meet Lucy (Rachel Wood), who is Jude’s love interest. Jude and Max head for New York and rent a room from a singer named Sadie (Dana Fuchs) to lead a bohemian lifestyle in the Village. However, the Vietnam War is looming in the background and Max, who has lost his 2-S draft deferment when he dropped out of Princeton, soon finds he has a date with Uncle Sam. I particularly enjoyed his processing at the induction center with Uncle Sam jumping out of the posting singing: "I Want You."

We are treaded to a singing, dancing, psychedelic images interspersed with a journey thought key or at least iconic events of the ’60s. The Detroit riots, Vietnam, peace protests, Kent State, and emergence of the radical Weatherman faction of the SDS. However, I have one big problem with the picture. The movie substitutes the fake for the real. Sadie meets a black guitar player named Jo-Jo (Martin Luther McCoy) who is Hendricks like but he isn’t Hendricks. Jude meets a psychedelic evangelist, Dr. Robert, who is similar to Ken Kesey but he’s not Kesey. He travels to upstate New York to meet some other practitioner chemical transience perhaps Timothy Leary? But it’s not him either. The SDS is now the SDR. Why? As Lucy is drawn into antiwar radicalism, we are shown her calling her mother from a phone both somewhere in Ohio. We see National Guard troops. We think that the Kent State shootings are about to occur. Instead her phone booth is just hit with a rock! Why not address the real events more directly?

If you like musicals, the Beatles, and know a lot about the 60s this can be an enjoyable movie experience. But, it seemed just a little flat to me. It could have been a lot bolder and better. And, the National Guard was almost always equipped with the M-1 rifle not the M-14 in the riots of the ’60s. I hate it when they get the guns wrong!


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