Welcome to a new recurring feature on RFT Music. In the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at the best music movies, from documentaries (Dig!) to movies with earth-shattering soundtracks (Trainspotting) to the most consistently watchable movie musicals (Funny Girl). This week, we're starting with a round-up of both our favorite and least-favorite music movies. Sure, there are some embarrassing moments here, and there's a considerable wealth of gems as well, but there are far more of both out there than we can name. Add your own nominees in the comments. There are enough good (and terrible) memories to go around.
Music movie flops:
5. Drumline Nick Cannon is the Aaron Carter of his film generation. Looking at his filmography list online, the most recent movie to his credit is one entitled School Gyrls, in which he both plays a lunch lady and directs the entire Nickelodeon extravaganza. The jury is still out on whether this sounds better or worse than his efforts in Drumline, a movie in which he is rude to basically everyone, usurps his superiors and somehow still manages to land an upperclassman played by the incomparable Zoe Saldana. (Keep reading to see how his real-life love fares on our list.) 4. Josie and The Pussycats I'm imagining the origin story went something like this: "Hey, it's 2001. It's the perfect time to rehash those comics from the '60s and that animated series from the '70s about a slightly sexist female band dressed as cats." "Dude, you're so right. Let's update it, though: It's the new millennium, so there should definitely be a plot about a government conspiracy carried out through subliminal messages, and let's put Parkey Posey in it." "Perfect. And Tara Reid can be the ditzy cat. You know, the one that plays the drums." 3. Glee 3D Rolling Stone's Peter Travers wrote the most succinct (though nowhere near the meanest) recap of this recent box-office failure: "The movie plays like an evangelical prayer meeting, though I'd hold the hallelujahs. The characters we came to admire as vulnerable misfits hit the stage like visiting royalty and with a nonstop perkiness that makes the Von Trapps look like manic-depressives." With the rise of 3D culture, the last thing we need to see projected trickily close to our faces is a mix of The Sound of Music and the sound of your last confession. 2. From Justin to Kelly Who thought this was a good idea? The fact that we had to Google Justin's last name (Guarini) during the research for this post is as good a sign as any that the sloppy, chemistry-less mockumentary about the two American Idol singers should have been a music video at better and a rejected film pitch at best. In a long line of possible options, this might be the single most embarrassing puzzle piece in the reality show's legacy. 1. Glitter This plot is as high as her vocal range is good -- or something like that. Music movie hits:
5. Spice World It's easy to judge the legacy of this cheesy but surprisingly lasting gem until you remember that there is a scene in which the five Girls legitimately meet aliens (who immediately grope them, and whom the Girls can somehow easily understand). The aliens ask for tickets, and they are refused: The show is already sold-out. Other than choice plot cuts such as this one and a scene in which the five imagine themselves pregnant, the film's lineup includes huge names such as Roger Moore, Richard E. Grant and Alan Cumming, all of whom have sustained careers much longer than the quintet's. 4. 8 Mile Largely concluded to be significantly more autobiographical than the rapper admits, Eminem's ode to growing up in Detroit is an uncomfortable watch even during the scenes that don't involve racism, homophobia and Brittany Murphy having sex. But that's what makes it work: The underdog story has been done before, but rarely with the gritty and witty uber-reality that Eminem lends to the big-screen take on his hometown. The results are somehow both lovely and brutal. 3. Twenty-Four Hour Party People The last five years have birthed a surprising number of Joy Division films, but their strangely funnier, more complete predecessor still holds sway. Steve Coogan stars as Tony Wilson, the almost unhinged founder of Factory Records, as he narrates the highlights and pratfalls of the label's accidental existence and epic lineup: Joy Division, New Order, The Happy Mondays, Durutti Column, the list goes on. Although the legend suggests Wilson signed Joy Division's contract in his own blood, it's almost as rewarding to guess at the eventual truth as it is to hear the stories of Mancunian lore. 2. Purple Rain The fact that there's a movie created for the sole purpose of highlighting Prince's Princeness is a ridiculous feat in itself. This movie, in which almost all the characters except the singer's use their real names as their film names, follows "The Kid" (the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince) as he struggles to save his romance with a babe named Appolonia, escape an abusive home life and ride around the smoke-filled city on a purple motorcycle while wearing a purple pleather suit. The only reason it has yet to usurp Citizen Kane is that it makes you chafe just watching it. 1. Hard Day's Night Some things are classics for a reason. This black-and-white comedy follows a mockumentary style that finds the Fab Four escaping the restrictions of fab fame for a brief trip between their hometown and London in a series of scenes that have influenced both music videos and spy narratives in the years since its 1964 release. It also finds Ringo reading a book alone, which is kind of the perfect fodder for every Ringo joke we've ever made in the decades after.