Still Crazy

Reviewed By John Linton Roberson
Posted 11/03/00 20:09:28

"Not bad. Too sentimental."
3 stars (Average)

Rock in films has had a spotty history. You have your self-aggrandizing concert films(SONG REMAINS THE SAME), your parodies of same(THIS IS SPINAL TAP, which is with GIMME SHELTER and QUADROPHENIA the best rock-oriented film ever), and then you have films like THE COMMITMENTS, sentimental stories of young bands. And now this, a semi-serious story of oldsters coming back. With so many baby boomers hitting 60, this was inevitable.

The plot is easily summed-up: a band from the 70s, Strange Fruit(a somewhat clunky name) that broke up due to tragedy and pettiness tries to get back together, now that most of them have failed at what they've done since, and after a number of comically bungled first attempts get it together and play their Bad Companyish music(written, actually, by Mick Jones of Foreigner, and sounds it) to a huge arena crowd, with a hint they might continue. All very heartwarming. But I must say, I do dislike "heartwarming" in British films. It comes off as artificial. Forgive me for saying so, but the strange new British emotionalism in films seems to me more than a little sycophantic to Hollywood and a rather low opinion, probably merited, of American taste--and this is very much designed for an American audience.

All in all, not great and not bad. The performances are uniformly good, especially the lead singer, Ray. It's basically Spinal Tap with far more mercy paid the band. In fact, there's even a big pompous art-rock number (Sweet Freedom) that goes wrong like "Stonehenge." But it's obvious, and therefore not funny. The music is bland and sounds nothing like the bands Strange Fruit is obviously modelled upon--notably Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac; they are continually referred to as legendary but at no point do we get any clue as to why.

One place it goes Spinal Tap couldn't is in the real tragedies that rock of that generation experienced--the disappeared, legendary member Brian, who went mad and is believed to be dead. As played, surprisingly well,by Withnail & I{/i] auteur Bruce Robinson, he's Syd Barrett and Peter Green, and sad, and touching, barely able to keep a fix on himself one word to the next. Till there's a movie about Syd, this image is it. It burns in your head.

It's Spinal Tap with sentimentality, a sweet, well-done good watching, but cliched and mawkish. A number of funny moments but I can't see it ever becoming a cult classic on the order of the aforementioned brilliantly laconic film it's striving so hard to be. It's not insulting to one's intelligence, and everyone in it is fun to watch. It is entertaining, but makes nothing resembling a profound statement on its subject.

And be warned--at some point someone says the dreaded "It used to be about the music" line.

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