After Hair and the mass marketing of tie-dye, can the '60s be shrunk to fit any further? Yes, indeed, here comes that nervous popularizer Julie Taymor, incongruously partnered with the happily vulgarian British writing duo of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, to run this transgressively utopian moment through the PG-13 musical sieve. Filtering the trans-Atlantic cultural revolt through a love affair between a Liverpool shipyard worker (Jim Sturgess) and a wealthy American co-ed (Evan Rachel Wood), Across the Universe reads the times via a blizzard of early Beatles songs. You say you want a sexual revolution? Well, I wanna hold your lesbian hand. Student revolt, anyone? They get by with a little help from their friends. Vietnam? Uncle Sam leaps out of his recruitment poster to spit out a few bars of "I Want You." Times of trouble? Let it be—and so on and on, as Jude and Lucy, guided by expository Taymor-ish spectacles, climb dutifully up the peak of infinite possibility, only to march grimly down the hill of disillusion and despair. The movie briefly comes alive in duets between a Janis Joplin clone and a Jimi Hendrix type, before collapsing into a bushy-tailed finale. Hey Jude, all you need is love. Not.
Wood in the sky with you know the song.
Across the Universe
Opens at Pacific Place and other theaters, Fri., Sept. 14. Rated PG-13. 133 minutes.