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Across the Universe


Stars: Jim Sturgess, Evan Rachel Wood, Joe Anderson, Martin Luther McCoy, Dana Fuchs, T V Carpio

Director: Julie Taymor

Spun entirely round the songs of The Beatles, this is an ambitious musical set in Britain and America at the end of the 1960s. The film's ambitions eventually prove too much for it, but its first third makes for a thoroughly enjoyable ride.

In Liverpool (dodgy Merseyside accents - presumably smoothed out a bit for Stateside consumption), shipyard worker Jude (Sturgess), who just happens to be a talented graphic artist, journeys across the Atlantic in search of the GI father who never knew about him.

Finding Dad to be the janitor at an Ivy League college, Jude makes friends with the scapegrace Max (Anderson) and falls for his sister (Wood) whose sweetheart is conveniently killed in Vietnam. They all go to California, and become involved in student revolution.

Taymor's love of masks comes up trumps here in some of the weirdly stylish dance sequences, especially one of soldiers in underpants marching through a scrubland of toy palm trees and carrying a giant Statue of Liberty. A vibrant scene in a bowling alley is also enormous fun. However, when the film ventures into Vietnam, hippie mysticism and flower power, it's way out of its league and gets wearisome long before the end, in spite of colourful interventions by Eddie Izzard as Mr Kite and Bono as Doctor Robert.

The Beatles songs, though, are timeless, and remind you just how good, melodic and groundbreaking they were, even if some of them get mangled here. Exempt from this are the three leads, who all sing pretty well, Wood in particular. It ends up as a drag, for all that, which you could never say about the Fab Four. It's the high end of a 12A and not suitable for junior school children.

David Quinlan

USA/UK 2007. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Colour by deluxe.
132 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 25 Sep 2007