Across the Universe a.k.a. “All You Need Is Love”
Reviewed by: Spencer Schumacher
2 hr. 11 min.
Year of Release:
September 14, 2007 (limited); September 21 (700+ theaters)
Should I save sex for marriage? Answer
How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer
Nudity—Why are humans supposed to wear clothes? Answer
What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer
What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer
“All you need is love.”
The first step in judging a movie musical is whether the songs are memorable, if they get your toes tapping. Being that “Across the Universe” is plotted around songs of the Beatles, the film is definitely starting off on the right step.
Though the songs are memorable, even classic, the problem is the performances.
The performances of the classic songs like the movie itself are pretty much a mixed bag. Sometimes living up to the classic renditions and at times falling short, while at other times leaving the audience wondering if these are the same songs penned by Lennon and McCartney.
The film starts with Jude leaving England to find a father who abandoned him and his mother during WW2. He sets off to Princeton with aspirations that his father is a scholar, only to find his father is a janitor, a working class stiff like himself.
While at Princeton he runs into, actually is nearly run over by campus clown Jude. Jude and his entourage’ befriend the young Englishman and Jude takes him home to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with his aristocratic family. While at dinner Jude is introduced to Max’s sister Lucy who he is instantly enamored with, and demonstrates it by privately singing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” or one of the other earlier Beatles love ballads. After a berating discussion about Maxwell not living up to his potential Max decides to drop out of school and move to New York with Jude. In New York the two city kids hook up in a commune house with a group of local musicians and social renegades, and thus our nostalgic trip through high lights of the 60’s starts.
As far as musicals go this film resonates closer to the low notes of “Rent”’ rather than say “Hair” or “Grease,” though it is clearly inspired by the two earlier iconic musicals. The film does closely follow the format of recent movie musicals, where most of the plot is conveyed through singing, however there are no huge choreographed musical dance numbers, just characters dancing through football practices, recruitment training and protest marches, all subtly set to the rhythm of the song the lead performer is singing.
When someone is not singing the film is a bit disjointed and characters seem to come in and out of the linear path the film is trying to travel. In the beginning of the film we are introduced to a high school cheerleader named Prudence (the Beatles references come from everywhere in this film, more on that later) who is cheering on a high school football team in Idaho. Then a few scenes later she gets on a bus to disappear from the story for about half an hour. Then once we are firmly in New York and Act 2, she mysteriously crawls into the apartment occupied by Jude and Max. Max turns to the group and asks, “Where did she come from?” Jude harkens the spirit of John Lennon when he responds (and sing it with me now), “She came in through the bathroom window.” Ok, that was obviously an inside joke, and hey it’s the 60’s, people were popping in and dropping out all the time.
If this film has a life beyond collecting dust on the shelves of Hollywood Video it will be as a fraternity game where one throws back a drink every time a Beatles song is referenced in the film, just is mentioned not to condone that type of behavior, but just as a reference to how contrived this film sometimes tended to be in order to work Beatles songs and references into the plot. For example Lucy’s (as in “The Sky With Diamonds”) brother Max is seen beating a fan with a silver hammer. At some points it became more interesting to see how the screenwriters would weave in these benign Beatles’ references rather than following the plot of the film itself.
The film is rated PG-13 and overall is pretty mild as far as offensive material. Mostly due to the musical nature of the film there is not very much profanity as the characters spend a good portion of their time singing the Beatles lyrics. There is a brief scene of nudity as Jude paints Lucy while she sleeps. She is naked with a sheet around most of her body, but when she awakens and stands up, we briefly see her naked from the waist up.
The most offensive trait of this movie would be the numerous drug references. There is a whole section in the middle of this movie, that deviates from the plot, where the characters are caught in a land of mysterious creatures and psychedelic colors. Visually it is rather exciting, however this of course is an allusion to the movies and the drug culture so prevalent in the era of this film. No telling of whether these scenes are purposely meant to enhance the experience of any audience member that might be chemically influenced or meant as an homage to the earlier 60s film such as “Easy Rider” or “Yellow Submarine.” Those that are offended by these types of drug references are hereby advised. Also, when we first meet Prudence it is subtly suggested that she has a crush on one of the other female cheerleaders, a theme that is played upon a little later in the film, but like many aspects of this film, never fully developed since Prudence seems to come and go from the story on a whim.
Since the film takes place with the Vietnam War as its backdrop there’s parallel arguments that are made by the film to America’s current situation in Iraq. No matter what your personal feelings are over the war, the war’s depiction in this film are poorly realized and seem very artificial.
People that like the Beatles music and are feeling the need for nostalgia might enjoy this film, most of the young teen audience (primarily girls) who I saw this film with seemed to get caught up in it.
“Across the Universe” is 131 minutes and is rated PG-13.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.