Across the Universe is about a lot of things: the Vietnam war, war protests, relationships, the 1960s, and overall, Beatles music. It's like a live-action version of Yellow Submarine, with more music. This movie has more songs than dialogue, which probably makes it a rock opera (correct me if I'm wrong, though. The only rock opera that springs to mind is Tommy, which I've never seen). Anyway, Across the Universe follows the story of Lucy, whose boyfriend was killed in Vietnam, her brother Max, his friend Jude, and the various people they encounter in New York City. A relationship develops between Jude and Lucy, but becomes strained after Max is drafted. Lucy becomes a vehement anti-war protester, while illegal alien (from Liverpool) Jude is not ready to match her fervor. It's all set to a great backdrop of Beatles cover tunes.
Don't be turned off by the phrase "Beatles cover." For the most part, I thought the songs were re-worked in a great way. They don't try to imitate the Beatles, which hardly ever works anyway. Some of my favorites: Jude singing "Girl" at the very beginning (this is also in the trailer I posted). He has a fantastic voice. Also, "Let it Be" nearly made me cry. It's done in an almost gospel style, and the whole scene is just very moving. All told, there are over 30 songs. I wish I could say I loved them all, but the one scene that didn't work for me was Eddie Izzard's version of "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" That one was just a little too different from the original for me. The movie also includes Joe Cocker doing "Come Together" and a few songs by Bono.
The order of the songs follow the general pattern of the Beatles' career, from their early love songs through the psychidelic period (with psychidelic scenes to match) through their return to real life. I wish I could say that the movie is a realistic representation of life in the '60s, but I wasn't around then so I wouldn't know. Most of the movie is grounded in reality (or at least as much reality as you can have in a musical) but some scenes are kind of out there. Also, the movie is rated PG-13, but I wouldn't take a 13-year-old to see it. There's a little too much weirdness, drug references, and random topless women. However, it's not enough to warrant an R rating. I'd say it's probably appropriate for 15 or 16 and up.
I went to see the movie with a friend of mine. I knew just about every song in the movie; he knew very few. However, both of us loved the movie and we agreed that we had to buy the soundtrack. Across the Universe is one of the best movies of the year, right up there with Hairspray.
What can I say? I just love music.
Overall: 3 1/2 stars (out of 4)
Oh, and one more note: there are 2 versions of the soundtrack. The Deluxe Edition has all 32 songs; the regular edition only has 15. It's really worth it to spend a few extra dollars to get all of the songs.