The Beatles. Their songs defined a generation in strife and still ring true today. Few movies (if any) have ever been made that are totally inspired by a band. Only The Beatles could inspire an entire plot after them. Across The Universe gives this concept a try, and does okay.
The story follows Jude (Jim Sturgess), a Brit searching for his father in America and stays with a Princeton boy and falls for his sister, Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). See, look at all the Beatles references already! Anyway, the two go on a journey from innocence to adulthood amid the Vietnam War and protest. Jude gets the American perspective on sex, drugs, and rock & roll while watching a generation change in revolution.
The movie is a musical using new versions of Beatles songs. Many work well ("I've Just Seen a Face", "Let Me Hold Your Hand") and some, don't (anything Bono sings). The set pieces are elaborate and stunning. What the movie does best is put a perspective to the songs, and show how they relate to society and the message they spread. This is the movie's strong point.
The weaker points may be in its story. Jude's original purpose for coming to America is to find his father, but not much is done with that plot and the dinner table scene with Joe's family seems laughably artificial (much of that scene reminds me of the Shoes video on Youtube). Many of The Beatles references are pretty corny as well: how many times do they have to say hey to the girl named Prudence before we get that that was the name of a song?
Overall, we have a film here that tries hard with great potential. There's enough good material here so I can't pan it, but there's not enough to give it an all out rave, which is what I had hoped for. Unlike most musicals, the music is actually great. This might have been a better movie had they made the story work better and avoided cliché. Ultimately, the story is about the power of music. How it can convey our emotions and describe the troubles of our times. Mainly, thanks to John, George, Paul, and Ringo.