Across the Universe

Rated 3.0

Director Julie Taymor and writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais use a hit-parade of Beatles songs as background for a musical phantasmagoria on the 1960s: sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll and Vietnam (with typical Baby Boomer self-absorption—can you imagine a filmmaker 40 years ago producing such a reverent tribute to the 1920s?). The characters are stick-figures with song-cue names—Jude, Lucy, Sadie, Maxwell, Prudence; just about everyone but Lady Madonna and Eleanor Rigby. What saves the show—putting it several notches above the Peter Frampton/Bee Gees version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band—is Taymor’s dazzling visual imagination; the movie is like Busby Berkeley on acid. The actors do their own singing, but their performances are pretty much beside the point; the real star is Taymor.