Today’s Prayer Focus

Across the Universe

also known as “All You Need Is Love”
MPA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPA) for some drug content, nudity, sexuality, violence and language.

Reviewed by: Spencer Schumacher

Moral Rating: Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults Teens
Genre: Musical Romance
Length: 2 hr. 11 min.
Year of Release: 2007
USA Release: September 14, 2007 (limited); September 21 (700+ theaters)
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Relevant Issues
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Featuring Jim Sturgess, Evan Rachel Wood, Joe Anderson, Dana Fuchs, Cynthia Loebe, Martin Luther, T.V. Carpio, Heather Janneck
Director Julie Taymor
Frida,” Titus,’ and the Broadway musical ‘The Lion King’
Producer Richard Baratta, David Brown, Derek Dauchy, Matthew Gross, Ben Haber, Charles Newirth, Rudd Simmons, Jennifer Todd, Suzanne Todd
Distributor Revolution Studios

“All you need is love.”

The first step in judging a movie musical is whether the songs are memorable, if they get your toes tapping. Being that “Across the Universe” is plotted around songs of the Beatles, the film is definitely starting off on the right step.

Though the songs are memorable, even classic, the problem is the performances.

The performances of the classic songs like the movie itself are pretty much a mixed bag. Sometimes living up to the classic renditions and at times falling short, while at other times leaving the audience wondering if these are the same songs penned by Lennon and McCartney.

The film starts with Jude leaving England to find a father who abandoned him and his mother during WW2. He sets off to Princeton with aspirations that his father is a scholar, only to find his father is a janitor, a working class stiff like himself.

While at Princeton he runs into, actually is nearly run over by campus clown Jude. Jude and his entourage’ befriend the young Englishman and Jude takes him home to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with his aristocratic family. While at dinner Jude is introduced to Max’s sister Lucy who he is instantly enamored with, and demonstrates it by privately singing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” or one of the other earlier Beatles love ballads. After a berating discussion about Maxwell not living up to his potential Max decides to drop out of school and move to New York with Jude. In New York the two city kids hook up in a commune house with a group of local musicians and social renegades, and thus our nostalgic trip through high lights of the 60’s starts.

As far as musicals go this film resonates closer to the low notes of “Rent”’ rather than say “Hair” or “Grease,” though it is clearly inspired by the two earlier iconic musicals. The film does closely follow the format of recent movie musicals, where most of the plot is conveyed through singing, however there are no huge choreographed musical dance numbers, just characters dancing through football practices, recruitment training and protest marches, all subtly set to the rhythm of the song the lead performer is singing.

When someone is not singing the film is a bit disjointed and characters seem to come in and out of the linear path the film is trying to travel. In the beginning of the film we are introduced to a high school cheerleader named Prudence (the Beatles references come from everywhere in this film, more on that later) who is cheering on a high school football team in Idaho. Then a few scenes later she gets on a bus to disappear from the story for about half an hour. Then once we are firmly in New York and Act 2, she mysteriously crawls into the apartment occupied by Jude and Max. Max turns to the group and asks, “Where did she come from?” Jude harkens the spirit of John Lennon when he responds (and sing it with me now), “She came in through the bathroom window.” Ok, that was obviously an inside joke, and hey it’s the 60’s, people were popping in and dropping out all the time.

If this film has a life beyond collecting dust on the shelves of Hollywood Video it will be as a fraternity game where one throws back a drink every time a Beatles song is referenced in the film, just is mentioned not to condone that type of behavior, but just as a reference to how contrived this film sometimes tended to be in order to work Beatles songs and references into the plot. For example Lucy’s (as in “The Sky With Diamonds”) brother Max is seen beating a fan with a silver hammer. At some points it became more interesting to see how the screenwriters would weave in these benign Beatles’ references rather than following the plot of the film itself.

The film is rated PG-13 and overall is pretty mild as far as offensive material. Mostly due to the musical nature of the film there is not very much profanity as the characters spend a good portion of their time singing the Beatles lyrics. There is a brief scene of nudity as Jude paints Lucy while she sleeps. She is naked with a sheet around most of her body, but when she awakens and stands up, we briefly see her naked from the waist up.

The most offensive trait of this movie would be the numerous drug references. There is a whole section in the middle of this movie, that deviates from the plot, where the characters are caught in a land of mysterious creatures and psychedelic colors. Visually it is rather exciting, however this of course is an allusion to the movies and the drug culture so prevalent in the era of this film. No telling of whether these scenes are purposely meant to enhance the experience of any audience member that might be chemically influenced or meant as an homage to the earlier 60s film such as “Easy Rider” or “Yellow Submarine.” Those that are offended by these types of drug references are hereby advised. Also, when we first meet Prudence it is subtly suggested that she has a crush on one of the other female cheerleaders, a theme that is played upon a little later in the film, but like many aspects of this film, never fully developed since Prudence seems to come and go from the story on a whim.

Since the film takes place with the Vietnam War as its backdrop there’s parallel arguments that are made by the film to America’s current situation in Iraq. No matter what your personal feelings are over the war, the war’s depiction in this film are poorly realized and seem very artificial.

People that like the Beatles music and are feeling the need for nostalgia might enjoy this film, most of the young teen audience (primarily girls) who I saw this film with seemed to get caught up in it.

“Across the Universe” is 131 minutes and is rated PG-13.

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I viewed this movie 2 times and I have to say I enjoyed it more the 2nd time around. The first viewing seemed to be a bit confusing in some scenes. I had some friends who wanted to see it, so I went again, which I am glad I did. Growing up with the Beatles, it was neat to hear the different arrangements that the singers performed in the movie. This movie touched on about everything that was going on in the US, Vietnam War, drugs, hippie days, “free love” which was during the Beatles era and played current Beatle songs along with the times.

I enjoyed the movie, the cast played their parts well, the visuals were better in some parts than others. The Vietnam War was definitely not like a real war scene, except video clips of the actual war. One boy gets drafted and they use the song “I Want You,” with the picture of Uncle Sam pointing his finger at him as an alive cartoon poster and the whole scene of his being prepared to go to war was very clever… then at the end of the same song, a group of American soldiers are singing 'She’s so heavy… heavy…' and are carrying the Statue of Liberty on their backs while stomping on palm trees through a simulated little jungle… someone’s idea… seemed to work okay.

This movie will remind people from the 60’s and 70’s of an era gone by, using a bit of footage from those days of turmoil that was going on. The Beatles were a big part musically.

I remember leaving the theater and there were 4 young girls behind me, maybe ages 18 through 20. They were agreeing how they 'hated that music'…I had to chuckle and realizing that most children and young adults were not introduced to the Beatles, they don’t have a clue who they are and are totally disinterested in their music. Plus, I don’t know of how many people still listen to the Beatles, some Christians find the Beatles very offensive. I do not.

Like mentioned in the original review, Prudence, a young lady who seems to long after women, sings “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (very nicely) but it is sung towards a cheer leader from her school and eventually you are introduced to her new friend (a girl), but nothing is ever shown in a sexual way with her. Everyone sang nicely, vocally and musically very talented.

This movie would most likely be offensive to many because of language and sex between the main characters, although it’s very mild compared to most of the movies today. This was not a Christian film… it was an effort to show the life and times of the Beatle era done as a musical.
My Ratings: Average / 4
DonnaM, age 51
Positive—“Across the Universe” is a visual feast, and will saw the emotions out of you; however, you absolutely MUST see it in theatres, as it would probably lose its effect on the small screen—unless you happen to be under the influence of some interesting substances (just kidding!). While the film is flawed in some respects, overall I was very impressed, and left the theatre holding back tears of joy.

The flaws have to do mainly with deviations from plot. For example, the character of Prudence was unnecessary, and just complicated the storyline. It is also worth pointing out that the psychadelic scenes, while a blast to behold, were just plain weird. It was nice to see Bono, but his character also was unnecessary.

The reviewer claims that people can have “opinions” concerning the Vietnam War. However, I’m sure most people will agree that the war was wasteful, and it accomplished nothing. Many lives were lost on both sides of the conflict, and we Christians are not children of death, but children of light and life—we should only support wars when there exists no other choice. There is only one justified opinion concerning Vietnam: it was the wrong choice. Ultimately, the film was beautiful, poetic, and will leave you believing the truth behind the old axiom, All you need is love. Indeed, it is truth eternal that all we need is love in the form of Jesus Christ.
My Ratings: Average / 4½
Cornelius Christian, age 19
Positive—My husband and I went to see this film and were thoroughly impressed by the quality of film-making, the music (seriously… how can you go wrong with the Beatles?), and the use of images. Julie Taymor is a brilliant director… and the fact that Bono had a cameo pretty much sealed the deal for me!! Taymor was more Brechtian in her technique, which basically means that she used imagery as a means of drawing the audience in, rather than the Stanislavsky method, which seeks to draw the viewer into the story. If you felt disconnected from the plot of this movie, that was intentional. You were supposed to feel that way! To me, the movie was a snapshot of the 60’s—the good and the bad… and no, the spirit of that era was not inherently Christian. The images that stood out to me were the riots, the protests, the free love, etc.

To my husband, the movie was more of an antiwar statement, because he picked up on the images such as Uncle Sam singing “I Want You,” the soldiers carrying the Statue of Liberty across the field, and the strawberries dropping like bombs. Being somewhat familiar with Taymor’s work, we came expecting this style of directing, and were extremely impressed with how she pulled it off. There were a few profanities, as well as some sex and drug references. I think that if a Christian wants to see a film unlike anything they have experienced before, and is not offended by a frank discussion of a time in history… and is willing to step “outside the box” and just let the music and images be the main point of the story (although there are several plots running through the film, and I also thought that Taymor did a great job connecting all the random characters that she introduced at the beginning), then he or she should go see “Across the Universe.” If you like your movies to have a definite “message” or “point” to them, then this movie is probably not for you.
My Ratings: Average / 5
Leanne, age 31
Positive—This is one of the best musicals that I have ever seen! I saw it a few nights ago, and we all loved it. The story is about as cliche as they come, but it’s presented in such an original, unique way that it doesn’t become a problem. It is simply amazing! All of the songs by the Beatles are presented here in all of their glory. Julie Taymor has given us another classic! A film that every film buff should see. NOW!
My Ratings: Offensive / 5
Adam Renkovish, age 25
Negative—…I am a Beatles fan and an overall rock music fan and was looking forward to this film. I was excited to see it, and now having viewed it in its entirety I can honestly saw it is one of the absolute worst films I have ever seen, and I see a lot of movies. The performances are dull, both in terms of acting and singing. The plot is thin and forced. And most irritating for me is that it is also historically misleading to the point of being manipulative. This last point was a big one for me as I am a pretty big history buff and have a B.A. in History. What irritated me the most was that the concept is great and to put the Beatles to events during that time in a musical could work very well. But why make up events that never happened and manipulate people who may not have a strong understanding of a very significant chapter in American history. The sad thing is that their are so many real events that could fit into and carry this film. Why not touch on the Chicago Convention or Kent State or real Civil Rights protests and riots. Instead you have pathetic protests in no historical context and the U.S. Army shooting at African American protestors in Detroit. This film could have in a very artistic, powerful, and truthful way drawn parallels from real events during Vietnam and our current situation in Iraq. Instead we get a total mess of a film.
My Ratings: Good / 1
John, age 26
Negative—My younger brother (15) and I went with two of our friends to go see this movie. Many of our friends had told us that it was great and that we should go see it, and so we did, without checking any reviews. After an hour and a half of complete nonsense, we all walked out, completely disappointed with what we saw. The movie made no sense whatsoever, and when a creepy guy with weird blue friends started dancing around, it was the last straw. Parents, as a teen myself, I definitely recommend that you don’t allow your teenagers to view this movie. With many blatant allusions to drugs and sexual promiscuity, I feel that this movie should be skipped by all Christians. Your life will be better without it.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4
Lauren Lahm, age 18
Negative—I’d just like to say that I am shocked with this movie. Although the music was superb and the artistic aspects within every frame and shot were astounding, this was by no means a reason to sit through it, and I feel guilty trying to make excuses for why I did. Almost every other scene was filled with nudity or sexuality in some form or another. I was very much disgusted. …
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Hannah, age 19
Comments from young people
Positive—There is not a shred of doubt that this movie is both astounding and moving—a riveting piece of cinematic art. True, it does contain material that is only suitable for mature audiences, but the message speaks far louder and clearer. The central theme of this movie is the changing of an entire world—from the shipyards of Liverpool to Princeton University, or from the 1967 Detroit riot to the jungles of Vietnam, the minds of young people everywhere are being opened. Four parallel stories are introduced in the beginning, but each character reaches the same point of sadness—love is cut short far too soon. Moved by confusion, defiance, or misery, they all escape their former lives and come together in the same complex in New York City. Amidst the revolution and anti-war rallies, one man is sent to Vietnam, and another is deported to Liverpool. The others are simply lost within themselves, trying to restore their broken friendships and find real love, in spite of all the danger.

But it is by no means a sappy love story, rather, it is the most original and mind-blowing love story I have ever seen. Many criticize it for being the same overused plot everyone has seen a million times, but that is a tragic misconception. The plot may seem familiar, but the careful craft and manipulation of the story into something entirely new is what makes it utterly amazing. Others say that it has no coherence, that it is merely a smörgåsbord of interesting yet irrelevant images. Poppycock. One would be astounded by the sheer genius of how every little thing is woven not only together, but into every word of some of the greatest Beatles songs ever sung. Two men, one fighting for his life in Vietnam, the other splattering red, dripping strawberries across the walls both sing “Strawberry Fields Forever” in unarguably the most visually-gripping sequence of the film. There are over 30 Beatles songs included in the film, each with its own dazzling effects and perfect placement in the plot. A powerful movie, by all means, but I would only recommend it for older teenagers and adults.
My Ratings: Average / 5
Katie S, age 16
Positive—I really enjoyed this movie, and there wasn’t a minute I got bored or confused. I noticed many bad elements; an example would be that there is nudity, a sex scene and implied sex. That sort of disturbed me. Also, there was some language, but for me, that’s not something that gets in the way of a well-done movie. I love the movie overall, it was so well-done and truly artful. The characters had the widest of imaginations. Most of the scenes were from the characters’ perspective, which was so twisted and amazing. As far as art goes, those scenes were the cherry on top of a completly breath-taking movie. But, because of the sexually gross scenes, I don’t believe that anyone under 13 should see this movie unless the bad stuff that I mentioned doesn’t bother you or if it’s edited. …I really wish it would have been edited for me. …if you can get past the inapropriate stuff, this movie is truly a work of art.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Devon, age 11
Positive—I have watched this movie about 8 times and I find it to be very outstanding. The quality of the movie is really good and the time that was put into making the film is very extensive. The movie brings back historical events that happend during this time period. It’s a reminder to us of how life was back in the day for a majority of the people. The drug use is limited, but very similar to how many people lived their lives back then. The sexual content is also very limited, and though the ideas of sexuality are made, there is no actually view of sexual intercorse during the movie. I will say that I do believe that the movie is intended for older age groups, and I do not recommend it to young kids. Any one over the age of 15 should be mature enough for this content. I highly recommend this movie for almost anyone. Also the musical content is outstanding… personally being a Beatles fan.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
Dana, age 16
Positive—I was very sad to see this movie end. To tell you the truth rather bluntly, I loved this movie. Everything about it, from the delightful, sweet love story, to the depressingly sad view of the horrible times of the Vietnam war, to the fact that all the songs were by one of the most amazing bands ever, THE BEATLES! I have a couple of friends who one their absolute favourite band is THE BEATLES, true fans who love and appreciate THE BEATLES and their music, I am one of them, and I find it sad that so many people claim to be fans but don’t truly appreciate them as they should be. But I’ve been sidetracked. I love this movie, everything about it. And I am happy to say that it is a film that truly does have a happy ending. Some people don’t like musicals, and I can tell you that you are lame and missing out. I love musicals!! From HAIR to FUNNY GIRL (which I will soon be in as a school play) to SWEENEY TODD to ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, I think they are awesome. And I am happy to report that ACROSS THE UNIVERSE is fantastic. If you are above 13 years of age,then buy, rent or borrow this movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
Joshua, age 14