It’s hard for a pop icon to face an audience with high expectations, but it must be far worse to face one with no expectations at all. Elton John’s records of the ’80s made few ripples, but in The One he has reteamed with longtime songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, and the results sound remarkably fresh. John unwinds some lanky, sinuous grooves on ”Simple Life,” harnesses the jubilance of ’70s disco with ”On Dark Street,” and uses a gospel-inflected refrain as if it were a flashlight beam to brighten the dark, steely ”Runaway Train” (featuring guest guitar licks from Eric Clapton). Not even his missteps fall totally flat. The lyrics of ”The Last Song” — sung from the vantage point of a terminally ill man whose father comes through for him — convey a heartbreaking desolation that the syrupy melody can’t. Even if you haven’t thought about Elton John in a while, it’s clear that the sun hasn’t gone down on him. B

The One
  • Movie
  • 80 minutes