Beatle Watch Day 2: "Across the Universe" viewed with mixture of dread and fear

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By Robert Bergin

Last week, Sean Manning posted about a bunch of lame-o’s protesting the usage of Beatles anthem "All You Need Is Love” in a diaper commercial. Whether the lame-o’s in question also knew about next month’s blockbuster film/Beatles tribute/Boomer-nostalgia epic Across the Universe remains in question, but I think it’s safe to assume that anyone who bothers to research Luvs’ marketing campaigns for instances of song-sullying probably didn’t let this flick fly under their radar.

The variable, then, must be artistic integrity - a quality dubiously associated with rock musicals. Mamma Mia and Tommy have their fans, but those productions succeed mostly because their audience has an emotional attachment to the show before the lights even dim. All the story has to do is not suck.

(I once saw a play called Steven’s Last Night in Town, which was essentially a flimsy excuse for a bunch of actors to sing Ben Folds songs. My favorite part was probably the intro to “Uncle Walter”: “Blah-blah-blah - here’s a conversation that has nothing to do with your uncle Walter.” Awkward silence. “Hey, remember your uncle Walter?!” Seriously, that’s, like, exactly what they said. Verbatim.)

Anyways, go watch this. Back? OK, so director Julie Taymor is clearly sitting on something new, right?

Where all the aforementioned productions embraced their camp and relative tackiness, Taymor’s set out to make something Important. That’s the correct decision (this isn’t fucking ABBA, after all) and she’s got the credentials for a sweeping spectacle, having won Tonys for Best Direction and Costume Design for her work on The Lion King.

But seriously, your protagonist is named Jude? And the supporting cast consists of, let’s see…Lucy, Max (would Maxwell have been too obvious?), Sadie, JoJo and Prudence. Each figure will, of course, conform to the songs they are named after: Max is the trouble maker, Sadie is sexy, and JoJo looks something like a loner. And fucking Bono as Doctor Roberts? Are you kidding? Why not just go all out and cast Judi Dench as Eleanor Rigby?

Am I the only one with an uneasy feeling about all this? The stakes are huge, and it really feels like there’s not going to be much of a middle ground - this will either be received as brilliant or an abortion. Here’s hoping it’s the former. And I gotta admit, as cheesy as this whole naming-people-after-songs thing feels, casting Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite is pretty brilliant.