September 23, 2019  (Web Review)


Universal, 117 min., PG-13, DVD: $29.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $34.99, Sept. 24

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

What would you do if as a struggling rock ‘n’ roll musician you woke up one day to realize you were the only person in the world who remembers the Beatles’ songs? That is the bizarre dilemma facing Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), whose biggest fan is his devoted road manager/best-friend Ellie (Lily James). One night, a mysterious 12-second global blackout occurs and Jack’s bike is hit by a bus, which lands him in the hospital. When he recovers, his friends give him a new guitar, and Jack starts strumming “Yesterday.” His astonished pals act as if they’ve never heard the song before, and it turns out that no one knows of the Beatles. Google searches only return images of bugs! So Jack starts trying to remember the Lennon-McCartney catalog. Once he’s able to get tunes recorded, Jack catches the attention of Ed Sheeran (playing himself), who invites Jack to go on tour as his protégé/opening act. Enter Debra (Kate McKinnon), a ruthless Los Angeles music agent, who vows to make Jack a pop icon. But at what cost? And what about sweet schoolteacher Ellie? Deep down, Jack’s afraid that he’ll be exposed as a fraud. The clever premise skirts any deep philosophical issues, as director Danny Boyle channels his natural edginess into a feel-good dramedy that is full of rom-com sentimentality (the Jack/Ellie love story is the weakest element here). Real-life married couple Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar are charming as Jack’s proud (if puzzled) parents, and Joel Fry plays Jack’s buffoonish best mate. Recommended. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by director Danny Boyle and writer-producer Richard Curtis, an alternate opening (5 min.), deleted scenes (24 min.), the behind-the-scenes featurettes “Live at Abbey Road Studios” (10 min.), “Soul Mates” (5 min.), “Playing for Real” (6 min.), “A Talented Duo” (4 min.), “A Conversation with Richard & Ed” with Curtis and Ed Sheeran (4 min.), “Ed Sheeran: From Stadium to Screen” (3 min.), and “Agent of Comedy: Kate McKinnon” (3 min.), plus an alternate ending (3 min.) and a gag reel (2 min.). Exclusive to the Blu-ray release are bonus DVD and digital copies of the film. Bottom line: a solid extras package for an engaging music fantasy.] (S. Granger)