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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Well slap a fried egg on my face and call me a Deservedly Frustrated Fool, because buying and watching the cinematic snore-fest Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was truly a mistake on my part. I wasn’t completely ignorant of what was to be in store, knowing this was considered one of the biggest turkeys of all time, but I was fully unprepared to be so colossally bored the entire time. And as much I tried to keep my very itchy finger away from the Fast Forward button, temptation ultimately gave in, allowing for quick trips through some of the especially tiresome sequences. Could I end the review here? Sure, but then I wouldn’t be doing my job properly.

The basic concept behind this movie is simple yet immensely unwise: Take just about every popular Beatles song ever heard and create a cohesive story on which a big budget musical can revolve around, throwing in a slew of special guest appearances and trippy special effects for the drug crowd to enjoy. Already you must be thinking, “How in the world could the hits of the Beatles serve a musical’s plot?” The answer, much to my chagrin, is a loud and resounding, “Not very well.”

We begin during a World War I battle. Honestly. There we see the fighting brought to a halt by the upbeat tunes of Sgt. Pepper and his band, and all the while we hear the gravely, altogether unpleasing voice of comedian George Burns serving as the narrator of this action. Get used to hearing Burns, because he’s the only one in the entire movie who is allowed to speak. Everyone else just sings, or talks without audio while Burns tells us what he or she’re talking about…it’s freaking irritating as hell. Then we see how the band kept spirits up during the Depression, World War II, and so on and so forth. Then Pepper dies and he leaves the band’s legacy to be continued by his grandson and his mates, played by the wide-eyed and surely coked-out Bee Gees.

The new incarnation of the Lonely Hearts Club Band has a rockin’ sound the kids really enjoy, so they sign a deal with Big Deal Records and move to The City of Angeles (covered in smog and filled with hookers, of course) to make their fortune. There a wicked and materialistic executive coerces them into living a crazy new life, and back in their hometown of Heartland, USA a similarly wicked and materialist real estate agent named Mean Mr. Mustard is turning what used to be an old fashioned hamlet into a seedy, punk-ridden ghetto. The horror, right?

All the while our requisite heroine, whose name is Strawberry Fields (enough already with the senseless Beatles references!), is pining for her love, the blonde and wispy Peter Frampton. Uh, I mean, Billy Shears. Or something. I don’t care. She runs away from home to find Billy, and together they set off to find the Lonely Hearts Club Band’s instruments, which were stolen by Mr. Mustard by order of FVB, a mysterious evil force who wants to destroy love and joy.

Oh my God you couldn’t care less could you? Well, neither could I to be quite frank. Maybe I’m not the target audience for this movie. Hell, I know I’m not the target audience, because everyone in that group is saving up for retirement now and are just beginning to get the reefer out of their system. And believe you me Buster Keaton; if your veins aren’t pumping the juice of the Ganja gods, this movie will serve no other purpose than to put you into an agitated sleep state.

Let’s move away—far, far away—from the plot of this movie and focus on the guest stars, which more than anyone else had me gnashing my teeth as my patience was tested with every passing minute. George Burns is just awful, and the person who thought giving him a song was a good idea should be forced to make sweet love to their Nana. But more embarrassing than Burns by far is poor, poor Steve Martin, who here seems to be trapped in his Wild and Crazy Guy persona. He leers, gyrates, twitches and mugs ad infinitum while singing “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” Well, I say singing, but he really just talks rhythmically. Not exactly pleasing to the ears, but let me say this right now: I’d much rather see Martin doing banal mainstream work like Cheaper by the Dozen 2 before this kind of immature, incoherent crap.

Oh, but there’s more! So much more. There are appearances by Dianne Steinberg! Earth, Wind & Fire! Aerosmith! Yes, Aerosmith. They play the sinister FVB it turns out, an acronym that stands for…are ya ready…Future Villain Band. See, it’s funny because they’re hard rock and the Beatles are…I guess, not. Whatever. All of these people merely serve to make the experience feel even longer, lending their vocal talents and making this nothing more than a glorified concert film. Don’t bash me, please, I enjoy Aerosmith and what have you, but don’t claim your film has a story and then spend eight minutes having them play songs on a stage. It serves No Purpose.

At a mortifying running time of close to two hours, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band almost refuses to end. The last half hour will literally have you witness the complete freezing of time itself. Insects flying around in your room will stop in mid-air. Water droplets in showers will hover while the Bee Gees sing, and sing, and sing some more, and sing a bit longer, and then stop singing long enough to transition into another song. Which they will sing. The finale, which features about a million “stars” standing on bleachers in a “We Are the World” fashion so they can sing the title track, is even worse, since it’s just an endless series of people trying awkwardly and unsuccessfully to seem relaxed while not looking at the camera. This is…hoo boy.

Yeah, I’m done. There’s a reason so many people hate this movie. More than a few reasons, really. So please, honor the memory of my patience, which during this film leaked out of my essence and hopped a train to Niagara, and keep this thing at arm’s length at all times. Treat it like a drunken party guest. Smile at it from across the room so as to recognize its existence, then retreat to the den and hide behind a plant. You’ll be better off spending two hours behind the plant.

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