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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Bringing Back The Beatles
by James Colt Harrison

Who doesn’t like the Beatles? But if you have been living in a cave for the past 40 years or you were born only yesterday, they were a smash-hit British musical group that took America by storm in 1965. Sometimes called “the mop-tops” because of their flopping long hair styles, the group caused a sensation when they appeared on the popular “Ed Sullivan Show” on CBS. Girls were screaming; girls were fainting; girls were entering puberty a few years early. Paul McCartney, whose guitar now has an aluminum walker, is allegedly a doddering old songwriter, but he had his chops during his heyday.

Enter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), a struggling musician who hasn’t had much luck. He’s a flop and can’t seem to get a break. Ellie, his childhood friend (played by a sweet Lily James), has always had faith in him and sticks by him with encouraging eyes. He hasn’t a clue that Ellie is madly in love with him. He’s too busy crying over his failed career. Also loyal to him is pal Rocky, a slightly goofy hanger-on with no discernable talent. He’s played with charm and humor by Joel Fry.

One night, a power outage causes a blackout over the whole world. When the lights go on again, amnesia seems to have set in about the music, and nobody remembers The Beatles! Except Jack. When he plays their tunes, everybody shrieks with joy and thinks the songs are the greatest. And Jack, seeing an opportunity, seizes on the idea that he can pass the songs off as his own.

He starts playing gigs that give him a reputation. Record companies come banging on his door. Even super star singer Ed Sheeran of the flaming red Irish hair looks in on Jack and offers to help him write a song. It so happens that Jack is working on “Hey, Jude,” which became an immensely big hit for the real Beatles. Jack is plunking away on his guitar and Sheeran offers to change the lyric to “Hey, Dude,” but Jack rejects that right away. (It’s a good thing he wasn’t writing the song as a tribute to the World War II ladies’ hair net or it would have been called “Hey, Snood!” Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Where do we begin with the musical tribute to the Beatles’ songs? So many are represented here in a wonderful nod to the mop-tops. From “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Band” to “Yellow Submarine,” to “Eleanor Rigby,” many more songs are interspersed into the film as part of Jack’s musical act. And Patel gives a terrific interpretation of the songs. He’s also such a likeable character that you forgive him for stealing the tunes and root for him to become a success…and he does.

Director Danny Boyle has a knack for propelling Indian actors to sudden fame. He did it with Dev Patel (no relation) in Slumdog Millionaire. Young Himesh Patel seems destined to rise on the world stage of filmdom with his winning portrayal in this delightful, tuneful film. Perhaps we are having a resurgence of musicals now with the releases of Bohemian Rhapsody, La La Land, and Rocketman all being released in the past year or so. It certainly is a welcome trend, and Yesterday makes a happy addition to the genre.

(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “PG-13” for suggestive content and language.)

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