Innovative theatrical director Julie Taymor (The Lion King) turns more than 30 Beatles songs into a lavishly phantasmagorical audio/visual experience.
It begins on a Liverpool beach, where a young man, Jude (Jim Sturgess) sits on the sand singing, Is there anybody going to listen to my story all about the girl who came to stay? Shes the kind of girl you want so much it makes you sorry; still you dont regret a single day.
The girl is Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), just one of the invented characters, along with her older brother, Max (Joe Anderson), who gets drafted. Somehow theyre sharing a bohemian pad in Greenwich Village with rockers JoJo (Martin Luther McCoy) and Joplinesque Sadie (Dana Fuchs) and a lesbian cheerleader from Ohio, Prudence (T.V. Carpio), who croons I Wanna Hold Your Hand against a football ballet.
Back in 1998, the Bee Gees Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band tried and failed to re-create the 60s and Beatlemania, so credit 54 year-old Julie Taymor (Frida, Titus) for courage, collaborating with composer/arranger Elliot Goldenthal, choreographer Daniel Ezralow, along with screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais.
Let It Be transforms into a gospel hymn set in the Detroit riots, while Strawberry Fields Forever is Vietnam-themed. Theres Bono as a Beatnik poet musing I Am the Walrus and Salma Hayek as five sexy, sinister nurses who administer morphine to Max in a VA hospital to the strains of Happiness is a Warm Gun, plus cameos by Joe Cocker and Eddie Izzard. Not surprisingly, the stylized cinematography ranges from realistic to surreal. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Across the Universe is a unique, if incoherent 7, a fantastic, counterculture voyage to nowhere. All you need is love, man.