Some movie musicals are great adaptations of the live stage version. Chicago, Hairspray, and Mamma Mia come to mind. Some movie musicals are bad adaptations of the live stage production. Rent and Phantom of the Opera come to mind. And some movie musicals are original productions without a live stage adaptation. They usually hurt. Across the Universe, a movie musical based on the works of The Beatles, is the film equivalent of wrapping barbed wire around a brick and hitting yourself with it. This just goes to show that even with possibly the greatest rock band in history providing the music, without a good plot, the musical will be awful. So curl up to this condensed script and spare yourself the pain of actually watching that movie.
The Advertising Pitch:
Television Ad: Hey, Tom! How would you like to see a movie musical based on the music of classic Beatles called Across the Universe?
Tom: Depends. Black and White Beatles or Color Beatles?
Television Ad: It’s mainly based on the White album.
Tom: I guess I can give the whole “Willing to try something new once” a go. Girls like it when guys are willing to try something new once. Though usually “Willing to try something new once” usually means “Shut up and do what the girl says.”
Across the Universe (ATU): HA HA! That television ad was a trap, Tom! In addition to seeing a movie musical based on Beatles music you may or may not have heard of, I’m subjugating you to a movie with the characters and set design of Rent…
Tom: I’ve seen worse, though there’s nothing much worse than that musical. Paying $10 to see a movie about singing homeless people when I can see the exact same thing at the Tenderloin for free.
ATU: …Stoned hippies and Bono….
Tom: As long as you throw in cops to beat them to a bloody pulp, I’m game.
ATU: …AND, the love story of Moulin Rouge.
Tom: Aw, hell! I’ve been stabbed by my own hand, got cellulitis from a cat sleeping next to me, and have even bought a pink Nintendo DS on purpose. But nothing… repeat, NOTHING, has ever given me so much pain, shame, or psychological damage as sitting through Moulin Rouge. Nevertheless, I will watch this movie because I am too cheap to return it. I am not afraid.
ATU: Oh… you will be. You will be.
(The movie begins)
Emo Looking Male: Hi, despite sounding like Ewan McGregor and singing a sad flashback song very similar to the one that started Moulin Rouge, I am NOT Ewan McGregor. The name’s Jude.
Audience: Hey, Jude!
Jude: Damn it, why does everyone greet me like that? It gets real old, real fast. As the first song implied, I am really sad over a girl. Now let’s go back to the time when I was happy.
(Way Back Machine activates)
??? Girl: Hi, I’m Lucy. I’m a high school girl. And this cute guy I’m dancing with is not Jude.
Tom: Then why are we watching you at your high school dance? I thought we were following Jude’s story. Whose flashback did we enter?
Lucy: Relax, Tom. We’re doing that “separating into different movies” thing that worked SO well in the Michael Bay Transformers movie. Now watch me have my last dance with my soldier boyfriend before he goes off to fight the Japs… or maybe the Viet Cong. I don’t know. The costume designer really screwed up on my boyfriend’s uniform and my dance outfit that I can’t tell if this is the 40’s or the 60’s. Come to think about it, I don’t know if I’m going to become Jude’s girlfriend or his mother because of the poor directing. But I guess this makes things interesting.
Jude: Look at me. I’m with my girlfriend, who isn’t Lucy. We were just listening to the same song playing at Lucy’s dance but played in a different style. Is this a symbol of time passing between generations? Or a symbol of how countries across an ocean can interpret the same lyrics so differently? Whoever directed this portion really needs to clarify if our montage was a span of time or a span of distance because I am really confused. But enough philosophy, I’m off to America after saying goodbye to my single, unmarried mother, who may or may not be Lucy.
Jude: I’ve arrived at a nearby sea port! Now I’m off to Princeton, after a detour through Ohio. Who booked my itinerary? This is the worst detour I’ve taken since Priceline.com. Oh, by the way, I’ll pass by an Asian girl named…
Asian Cheerleader: Hi, I’m Prudence.
Audience: Dear, Prudence.
Prudence: Stop greeting me that way! Well, I don’t know why the attention is suddenly on me, but I guess I’m part of a new branching movie plot. Well, I’m a cheerleader at the same high school where “High School Musical” takes place. But that tweeny musical won’t take place for another 40 years. So I better find a new musical to be cast in. Um… bye for now.
Jude: I found the man I’m looking for. He wasn’t who I thought he’d be and he doesn’t really want anything to do with me. This trip was a total bust. Now I’m going back home and back to my regular life. I just hope I don’t run into some guy who detours me from my plan and we wind up living in a crappy New York apartment with a bunch of stoned hippies as I eke out a living being a starving artist.
Future Princeton drop out: Hi, I’m Max. Wanna come with me to New York?
Max: Oh, and meet my sister Lucy.
Tom: Oh, FINALLY this movie makes some sense. Unfortunately, I smell a copycat lawsuit from that OTHER musical about wannabe Bohemians and their quest for love. I hope those two original musical films kill each other in a steel cage death match.
Lucy: Relax, Tom. I’d never fall for that cute guy with the cute accent. I still have my boyfriend who’s fighting in the war. And we’re so much in love. And you know what happens when the leading actress is so much in love with her soldier boyfriend that they have a romantic moment at something like a high school dance before he ships off to war and then the leading actress meets a cute guy while her boyfriend fights bravely on the front.
Lucy’s Soldier Boyfriend: That’s my cue! (Distant gunshot, dies)
Lucy: OH MY GOD, THEY KILLED MY BOYFRIEND! Now I have to drop out of college before I even attend, move to New York with my Princeton dropout brother and cute Jude, and hook up with said Jude.
Tom: Wow, that plot development came so fast that I can’t even come up with a witty comment.
(Somewhere in hopefully a different movie)
Black Man: I’m JoJo. Now all you JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure fans had better get your fan squeals and quotes out of your system before I even THINK about joining the Across the Universe movie in New York.
Tom: I’ll hold my fanboy squeals until the movie sings “Get Back.”
JoJo: OK, off to New York.
Prudence: Remember me?
Prudence: Eh, I’m joining this cast and apartment.
Jude, Max, JoJo, Prudence, Lucy, Singing Landlady: Let us all go about our Bohemian lifestyle exploring art, music, and each other!
Tom: In other words, kill about 50 minutes watching you guys paint, get stoned, sing, and wander around while talking nonsense about giving peace a chance.
Singing Landlady: Hey, we’re running out of creative ways to set up our musical numbers, so we’re going to outsource opportunities by bringing in new people who can set up songs… like this piece of charismatic piece of crap.
Tom: He looks like Bono.
Charismatic Crap: Hmm… how to set up the next song with minimal creativity? I know! Um… I just… wrote a book…. titled… “I Am The Walrus.”
Tom: Wow. That was the possibly the worst set up ever.
Crap and main cast: We’re off to score some LSD!
Crap: Oops! The studio didn’t pay me enough to stay in this movie. Screw you guys, I’m going home.
Main Cast: That was pointless and random. How do we continue our Seinfeld-esque plot of nothing while setting up more musical numbers that, while being an effective plot development device as fighting a firestorm with a wet-nap, are visually stunning? Oh look, a circus tent!
Eddie Izzard: Who needs a proper set up or relevance to plot? I’m Eddie Izzard and the visuals for my song resemble a live action version of Terry Gilliam’s animation from Monty Python’s Flying Circus!
Tom: As overly trippy as this looks, I’m actually liking this musical number of Blue People and circus freak shows. And I’m hating myself for liking it.
Max: Whoa, that was completely random. Now to help jog some plot into this movie, I’m off to fight in Vietnam, which was the war that killed Lucy’s first prop… I mean, boyfriend.
Lucy: Well, now I’m going to become an anti-war protester.
Jude: I’m still an artist.
JoJo and Singing Landlady: We were a band, but now we’ve split.
Jude: Oh, Lucy. I hate your anti-war protesting. It’s as effective as yelling at the iceberg after it hit the Titanic.
Lucy: Oh yeah? Watch us hippies protest the war and face these cops and their giant clubs.
Tom: OK, when I’m cheering on the cops for beating up the hippies, the director REALLY missed the mark.
Max: I’m out of the war and REALLY mentally warped. More so that usual.
Tom: You can’t be THAT mentally warped! You sing my philosophy, “Happiness is a Warm Gun!”
Jude: Well, life officially sucks now that I’m FINALLY being deported to England after losing my girlfriend Lucy. And life continues to officially suck as the girl I left in England is now married and pregnant. Oh well. Oh-Bla-Di, Oh-Bla-Da. Life goes on.
Tom: Unfortunately, they don’t sing that song.
Jude: And remember my emo singing at the opening scene? Here I am now. I guess I’ll have a change of heart after hearing “Hey, Jude” and go back to the US. Though how the US would allow me to return to their country after recently deporting me is anyone’s guess.
(Back to the USA)
Singing Landlady and JoJo: Look at us singing on a rooftop!
Tom: It’s been done.
Jude: Here I am at the rooftop. No Blue Man Group in sight. Time for a happy ending once Lucy shows up.
Lucy: Here I am!
ATU: Cue the “Lucy’s In The Sky With Diamonds!”
Tom: Wait! You forgot “Get Back!” You have a character whose name I actually like, and deny him his image song?
ATU: Don’t you get it, Tom? There’s more than one way to torture a person. One way is to bombard with total junk he/she hates. Another way is to deny the one thing he/she actually does look forward to seeing.
Tom: I have to remember that.