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IN SHORT: One part Spinal Tap, One part The Commitments twenty years on. 33 1/3 parts fun.
. . . and doesn't that last bit show my age . . .
Long term readers know that there are only two things that Cranky gets really nitpicky about, when it comes to movie stories. The first is anything traumatic medical (and you can read the History page for that). The second is for anything about the music biz, of which Cranky had a long term participation in, to wit: longform radio projects with John, Paul, Ringo and George (Martin, not Harrison); David Bowie; John Cougar Mellencamp; Max Weinberg pre-Conan O'Brien; No Nukes, Live Aid, Farm Aid 1, Sun City and the first Woodstock II (there were two of 'em). I also spent a year engineering the live rock concert series The King Biscuit Flower Hour, though none of that work has been mastered to CD. Yet. That's first hand, folks. There are also prominent Oscar® and Grammy® nominated composers in the family, but that's just blood. Cranky bailed out when AOR became Classic Rock in the mid 1980s. Onwards. . .
Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais, the screenwriters of The Commitments essentially pick up where the epilog to that film left off, replacing the first band with "Strange Fruit," a contrived 70s "supergroup" (and I say that kindly) that sounds like a cross between the Nick Lowe side of Rockpile (as opposed to the Dave Edmunds side) and late-Status Quo. Two members of the band, (suspiciously named Brian and Keith) are dead and everybody else is flat broke. In simpler terms, the leaders of the band hate each other's guts and, needing the cash, grudgingly agree to a "test tour" leading to a reunion at the 20th anniversary of the open air Wisbech Fest, this film's equivalent of Woodstock.
Director Brian Gibson has his own set of music chops, previously directing What's Love Got To Do With It and HBO's The Josephine Baker Story. Gibson populates the cast with name brand actors to handle the heavy parts and one legit musician/actor combo player, and it goes like this . . .
Keyboardist Tony (Stephen Rea) now stocks condom machines in Ibiza and the tourist season has been lousy. When the son of the original Wisbech Fest promoter stumbles upon the beat up looking rock star (Rea's downtrodden puppy dog eyes droop at full hang dog intensity) the idea of a reunion is broached. With the help of Karen (Juliet Aubrey), who used to do the laundry and was in love with lead guitarist Brian, Tony tracks down the members of the band: the corpulent drummer Beano Baggot (Timothy Spall) who is a man on the run from the Brit equivalent of the IRS, who sees the tour as a sure fire way to get laid; Bassist Les Wickes (Jimmy Nail) who is happily married, working as a roofer, and grabs the opportunity to make money at what he loves rather than what he hates; Lead singer Ray Simms (Bill Nighy) lives an unaffordable high life in an English manor with a bossy and controlling second, Swedish, wife (Helena Bergstrom). Lead guitarist Brian Lovell (Bruce Robinson) has died, and the addition of a new, younger, flashier guitarist (Hans Matheson) is seen as the key to connecting with the new kidlet crowd or, to Karen's dismay, to her daughter Clare (Rachael Stirling). With roadie Hughie (Billy Connolly) back on board, bearing 20 year old stage costumes, an assortment of drugs and a pornography stash courtesy of a PsyFurs tour circa 1988, the group set out on a shakedown tour of dives and clubs in the Benelux nations.
None of this means that Les and Ray don't still hate each other's guts, for entirely logical rock reasons that are satisfactorily attended to at the finale of the flick. You'll see that coming half an hour off, but there's still a near death experience, a midnight run from the authorities and a rock 'n' roll resurrection coming to keep things interesting.
Writers Clement & La Frenais could have gone for cheap drugs and sex gags, a la almost any 70s based "rock" movie but they work in some truly adult themes and solid stories underneath the gags -- of aging and trying to regain the spark of youth, of loves lost, of arguments left unsolved -- all things those of us who have passed 30 have seen in our lives one way or another in spades. As with their The Commitments, you get distinct personalities in the band, and the actors actually come together as a performing unit, with real life vocals of actor Nighy and real life chops of musician Jimmy Nail. All the music is new, written by stalwarts of the era Mick Jones (Foreigner), Chris Difford (Squeeze), Jeff Lynne (ELO) and Russ Ballard and are served up by producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley who you know if you know.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Still Crazy, he would have paid...
Anyone who grew up with 70s rock first hand, or have spent the last decade listening to classic rock, i.e. anyone with just a trifling knowledge of the quirks of that glam to punk time is going to have a damn fine time.
The extra four bits 'cuz Still Crazy brought a bit of moistness to the corner of one of Cranky's corneas. He hates that, but ignored it this time out <g>
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