Across the Universe
Julie Taymor’s gaudy, goofy movie musical tells a pop cultural tale of the Swingin’ Sixties via cover versions of 30 or so Beatles songs. It takes all the musical exuberance the performers can muster to keep the thing from sinking under its own extravagance. Character names, plot twists, and even punch lines allude to Beatles songs. Jim Sturgess, who sounds a little like John Lennon and looks a bit like Paul McCartney, shines as Jude, a cheeky Liverpool lad who jumps ship in New York just in time for trippy rock mania and protesting in the streets. Dana Fuchs, who played Janis Joplin off-Broadway, is the musical standout among the leading players. Prudence (T.V. Carpio) comes in through the bathroom window, literally. Salma Hayek’s digitally multiplied cameo, as a soft-core porno nurse in a military hospital, is just enough of too much. The richest musical knockouts—Joe Cocker’s “Come Together” and Fuchs’ “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”—come early on, but (to paraphrase George Harrison circa 1964) it’s all good for a giggle. Then again, to paraphrase Woody Allen circa 1973, it rarely achieves total heaviosity.