Thursday, February 02, 2006

Yellow Submarine (Dunning, 1968)

Perhaps one of the most delightfully optimistic films in existence, Yellow Submarine is a natural extension of the Beatles’ incomparable music. Using the irresistible sing-a-long classic as a starting point, a team of screenwriters and animators weave together a whimsical, meandering journey in which the Fab Four use music and love to overcome the roguish Blue Meanies -- a group so diabolical, they use giant green apples as weapons of mass destruction. Yellow Submarine’s best quality is that it mostly affects the viewer instinctually, washing over us without ever bogging down in conventional character development or narrative. Like John Lennon’s anthems of peace, the film expresses a ridiculously simple truth, but does so with a conviction and honesty that is refreshingly pure. I also liked the way the film expressed the Beatles’ gigantic celebrity, placing them in a giant, chaotic mansion full of doors leading to paths unpredictable. The actors hired to voice the animated version of the band attempt to mimic the same deadpan delivery that provided many laughs in A Hard Day’s Night; however, the dialogue registers as unintelligible mumbling as often as provides laughs. There is a sameness in the voice-overs that gets swallowed up by the visual stimulus. There’s plenty of Beatles charisma on display -- don’t get me wrong – in the music and the images inspired by their lyrics. And yet, much of the charisma is delivered second-hand. Fortunately, the film does its real communication through music merged with the creation of a captivating universe in which a commitment to peace is more powerful than any weapon. The Beatles walking in a nowhere land leaving a wake of beautiful color … the word ‘No’ becoming ‘Know’ … and of course the unabashed embrace of the power of love – these are moments that are certain to linger and which make Yellow Submarine a singular experience.



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