Movie Review by Susannah Macklin
Starring: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison
Director: Richard Lester
So there was a point to Spiceworld!! After my unfortunate introduction to the outcome of giving a pop group the ultimate self indulgence in the form of the film camera, I was always suspicious that John, Paul, George and Ringo might have inspired the worst side of. pop mock documentary. But this view, and being born a fair few years too late with bad music taste, nearly stopped me from seeing this classic Beatles comedy, that clearly the girl power generation thought good enough to imitate!
In creating a story following The Beatles in the run-up to an appearance on a TV show, Alun Owen’s Oscar nominated script doesn’t exactly step beyond the boundaries of imagination but he has captured the essence of the Beatles and the sixties. The balance between The Beatles on screen characters and their own characters is strikingly spot on and while playing on the public’s perceptions of them, also seems sincere enough for their true personalities to shine through. The Fab Four’s journey to hit the airwaves on time to perform sees them getting into all sorts of ‘bother’, the sort that would today almost certainly make a pop star yawn. But the harmless japes and frolics that see them feeling the long arm of the law adds to the overall charm of the film.
The story manages to encompass The Beatles music without it appearing to have been just skilfully dotted throughout as an advertising exercise, but of course the benefit of hindsight probably adds a nostalgic edge that allows the film to take on this feel. For new and old viewers of the film this is where the most impact in the narrative is felt – with the digitally restored soundtrack, which can’t fail to move even the most static cinema goer. Just hearing it in cinema surround sound stereo has a spectacular impact, unlike perhaps the fully restored negative which although great quality, pales within a film showcasing a band of such phonic magnitude.
Whether you made it to the film the first time round or are watching it afresh, seeing the film in a period for which it wasn’t initially intended, means viewing The Beatles in a way perhaps not originally meant or received. A fantastically natural performance from Ringo Starr in a part that takes him away from the rest of the band for a good portion of the latter part of the story, might well have been overlooked the first time round.
Although they were a hugely marketable band and this film added to The Beatles already massive merchandising operations (which as this re-release highlights, persist today), their music and characters stood alone. Whether a fan or not, it’s easy to see why they were and still are, such a phenomenon, and the fact that many a pop group have thought they could emulate what The Fab Four have done here on film, is a credit to The Beatles as performers in a genre that wasn’t their own.