Documentary Review: ‘The Beach Boys’ On Disney+

by | May 24, 2024 | Featured Post, Movie Reviews, Movies | 0 comments

Greetings again from the darkness. Casual fans of The Beach Boys music are attracted to the light-hearted and fun songs that are always good for a burst of feel-good energy. More attuned fans remain in awe of the intricate vocal harmonies … rarely matched by other bands. Co-directors Frank Marshall and Thom Zimney have successfully presented the story of The Beach Boys without either over-the-top gushing or digging too deeply into the dirt.

By going all the way back to the childhood of the Wilson brothers, the film details how singing in the backseat of the family car began the transformation into a supergroup that changed pop music forever. Oldest brother Brian has always been accepted as the musical ‘genius’, while Carl was inspired to pick up a guitar after hearing Chuck Berry, and rebel Dennis played the drums almost out of necessity. Cousin Mike Love wrote many of the lyrics for Brian’s music and became the band’s lead singer, while good friend (and Brian’s football teammate) Al Jardine’s exceptional voice was a natural fit. We learn it was Al’s mother who fronted the boys $300 to rent instruments after hearing them sing together (smart lady). We also learn that Murry Wilson (the boys’ father) sold his business to manage the group towards gigs and their first record deal.

It’s really that history – the foundation of the band – that is the most interesting aspect of the film. For the most part, it tracks chronologically through the album releases and tours, while emphasizing the importance of the band bringing beach culture to the masses. Hearing about their musical influences: The Four Freshman, Dick Dale, The Ventures, and Phil Spector, allows us to understand exactly how things progressed so quickly.

The filmmakers (with impressive music doc and music video backgrounds) mention but opt not to dwell on the darker aspects of the band’s history. The commercial failure of “Pet Sounds” (now considered a masterpiece) played a significant role in Brian’s emotional fade. Father Murry’s inexplicable decision to sell off the band’s publishing rights prevented any of them from reaching the financial status they deserved. As was commonplace for the time, drugs were detrimental to individual band members as well as the band’s productivity. Deciding to pull out of the Monterrey Pop Festival (no real explanation given) resulted in the band becoming irrelevant for a few years. Mike Love sued the band for songwriting credits, creating a huge rift. These points, along with Dennis’ happenstance involvement with Charles Manson, are all mentioned yet given no real depth … which is fine for a documentary working so hard to stay positive.

As a conclusion, Capital Records’ release of the double-album “Endless Summer” injected new life and popularity into the band (getting them past that earlier ‘rivalry’ with The Beatles), and the finale is a shot of a recent reunion with surviving band members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston at Paradise Cove … with no insight into what was discussed.

The film begins streaming on DISNEY+ on May 24, 2024

David Ferguson
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