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"Across The Universe" Blu-ray Review

I like musicals. I like The Beatles. I like artsy movies. So why didn't I like the artsy Beatles-based musical Across the Universe? Probably because director Julie Taymor managed to be simultaneously opaquely artsy and painfully obvious in the execution of this meticulously designed and shot, but emotionally vacant and dull fantasia which ends up ill-serving the music and the era.

Starting with a roster of character names culled from Beatles tunes - Jude, Lucy, Max(well), Prudence, Sadie, Rita, Jojo, Gonzo (j/k) - we're primed to await the obligatory name-checks (e.g. Sadie is sexy, Prudence is dear, and Max bangs a silver-headed hammer three times) and as Taymor runs us thru a time warp mashup of the Sixties (it starts as if it's 1963 and ends in 1970 though the whole plot spans no more than a year, if that) and odd takes on the classic songs.

The problem isn't the less-than-powerful vocals - no one expects Marilyn Manson's girlfriend and the kid from 21 to blow the roof off the dump - but the visual style Taymor utilizes. Alan Parker's film version of Pink Floyd's The Wall was like MTV-on-acid (kids, ask your grandparents about the time when MTV used to show these little musical films called "videos"), but ATU comes off as a candy-coated pseudodelic filming of a theatrical numbers. Taymor directed the Broadway adaptation of The Lion King, so this isn't surprising, though it doesn't make it any more appropriate. While it's easy to admire the craft that goes into these numbers, they don't really work and when guest vocalists like Joe Cocker, Bono, Salma Hayek (who starred in Taymor's last film, Frida) and Eddie Izzard pop up, it only pulls us out of the picture more.

More damning is that it was very easy to take breaks during my viewing. I must've stopped a half-dozen times to answer Facebook posts, scan Android forums, get snacks, etc. It took me over four hours to watch the shade-over-two-hour film, which is not a quote you'll be seeing in adverts any time ever.

Score: 4/10. Catch it on cable.

The Blu-ray's picture is generally quite stunning, showcasing the bright colors and fine details, though there are some odd spots where a light haze of what looks like "digital grain" appears, including the opening shots. It reappears here and there, but most of the time the picture looks fine. Audio is front-heavy and generally not too impressive; weird for a musical. If you actually enjoy Across the Universe, then by all means, you want it on Blu-ray.


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