Across the Universe
Do you remember Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, that metastasizing 1978 monstrosity starring the Bee Gees and George Burns, where Beatles songs were masticated into disco mush and used to spackle together a ridiculous plot? Across the Universe is nothing like that. The endlessly inventive Julie Taymor (Frida) has found a way to strip the overplayed Beatles catalog down to its sentimental essence, using the songs to bridge the Summer of Love romance between Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) and Jude (the bell-voiced Jim Sturgess) in a way that's entirely uncheesy and filled with her trademark visual impudence: strawberries raining like bombs on Vietnam, psychedelic underwater kisses, 50-foot puppets with serene moon faces, and hypodermic syringes filled with an undulating Salma Hayek. Every reinterpretation brilliantly reawakens you to the pop perfection of the original melodies--surpassing the original in some cases, like the heartbreaking rendition of "I Want to Hold Your Hand"--while dazzling the senses. There's the slightest bit of musty baby-boomer self-aggrandizing in the trajectory of Jude and Lucy's romance, but it's forgiven by the imagination and innovation contained in every frame. You will never again be able to hear "I Want You (She's so Heavy)" without recalling Taymor's audacious visualization of . . . well, we'll let you be surprised.