Credit: Abbot Genser

The Beatles already survived one attempt by Hollywood to turn them into kitsch — 1978’s infamous Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — and so you have to wonder what they did to deserve Across the Universe, Julie Taymor’s goofy, pompous, annoyingly boomer-myopic Fab Four musical. It’s the sort of movie in which a young rebel reports for the draft, and Uncle Sam, glowering down from an ”I Want You” poster, starts to sing — yes — Abbey Road‘s ”I Want You.” Then, just as you’re in mid-jaw-drop, the number cuts to a group of soldiers in Vietnam carrying the Statue of Liberty as they sing, ”She’s so heav-ayyyyy…”

Watching Across the Universe, it’s almost fun to pick out which use of the Beatles makes you gag the most. Taymor serves up the songs in sludgy marzipan renditions, cramming them into her god-awful shopping-mall rehash of the late ’60s. There’s ”With a Little Help From My Friends” turned into a frat-house ditty (why not?); ”Helter Skelter” slathered across counterculture riot footage in the style of a bad TV movie; and songs like ”If I Fell” pasted onto romances that haven’t been remotely dramatized. The story is all protests, rainbow crash pads, and solarized acid trips — a Hairy cliché fest, all reflected through the tale of a guy named Jude (Jim Sturgess) and a girl named Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). I did like the underwater kissing to ”Because,” plus Bono doing ”I Am the Walrus.” He has presence (more than you can say for anyone else). But the thing about the Beatles is, their songs already are movies. They hardly needed to be fixing the hole of this one. C-

Across the Universe
  • Movie
  • 133 minutes