Cert 12A 116mins Stars 3
This juke box musical romcom is an amiable and safe disappointment from the creative dream team of writer Richard Curtis, and director Danny Boyle.
Gently humorous but shy of laughs, we have every right to expect a much funnier script from the guy who gave us Four Weddings, and something more interesting from the director of Trainspotting.
Watching it is akin to the experience of listening to a coffee shop song cover compilation while leafing through the Boden summer clothes catalogue.
Following a road traffic accident and a global electrical blackout, a part-time busker wakes up to discover he’s the only person in the world with any knowledge of pop group, The Beatles.
Using their songs to become famous, Himesh Patel must choose between global superstardom and the true love of Lily James. The pair are sweet and charming, and in her least annoying big screen performance, US comic actress Kate McKinnon is nicely acerbic as a US music promoter.
As the Beatles had split up before I was born, it’s questionable how many of those under 30 years old are sufficiently well versed in their music to understand the many laboured references and jokes.
So alongside Beatles songs such as the title dirge, Hey Jude, and Back in the USSR, there’s also lots of singer Ed Sheehan, who is game for being the blunt end of some gentle mockery while getting paid to push his unique brand of forgettable pop which seems ever more insignificant in this company.
Ed’s presence along with James Corden who plays himself, and location work at the Latitude music festival illustrates how middle class and middle-of-the-road this all is.
Boyle contributes typically bold flashes of colour and clearly has had a ball crafting animated visuals to accompany the classic tunes, while riffing on The Beatles film caper, A Hard Day’s Night.
But it’s mostly a greatest hits package of Curtis’ well-worn tunes, so stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
The lead is a tongue tied Englishman who’s oblivious to the fact his gorgeous best friend fancies him, and in order to get him to notice her she has to humiliate herself a couple of times, including at least once in public.
Their mutual vaguely posh friends have ill-defined jobs, nobody speaks like a real person, there are public declarations of love, and a last minute dash to a train station.
Curtis has built a career by borrowing heavily from authors such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Evelyn Waugh, and here has a written a script about a singer who steals from the biggest pop band of all time, and which suggests having The Beatles in facsimile is better than not having them at all. It’s an exercise in self–justification and Curtis should let it be.