bohemian rhapsody20th Century Fox
2018
PG-13

“We need a song teenagers can bang their heads to in a car. Bohemian Rhapsody is not that song.”

Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury. Freddie defied stereotypes and shattered convention to become one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet. The film traces the meteoric rise of the band through their iconic songs and revolutionary sound. They reach unparalleled success, but in an unexpected turn Freddie, surrounded by darker influences, shuns Queen in pursuit of his solo career. Having suffered greatly without the collaboration of Queen, Freddie manages to reunite with his bandmates just in time for Live Aid. While bravely facing a recent AIDS diagnosis, Freddie leads the band in one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music. Queen cements a legacy that continues to inspire outsiders, dreamers and music lovers to this day.

Queen. This is a band that, on paper and in theory, should not have worked. And yet, not only did it work, but some would argue that they made a mark on the rock and roll world that has yet to be duplicated, before or since. It was just a matter of time before a big screen biopic was made, and in the waning months of 2018, we got one. Whether we asked for it or not.

A little personal history: The first Queen song I ever heard was their hit “Another One Bites The Dust”, played at a skating rink in Grand Island, Nebraska, while I was in 2nd Grade, attending a birthday party with my Cub Scout troop. This was back in 1982. Come to think of it, that was probably my very first exposure to this wacky thing called “rock n’ roll”, as my parents had more of a taste for schmaltzy AM Gold type music, if they did play music. As time went on, I was familiar with Queen’s singles, and while I knew a handful of outright fanatics of the band in High School, I never really graduated past “listener” of the band. Meaning, I never owned a full album, maybe one or two singles; but, if one of their songs came on the radio, I wasn’t exactly clamoring to change the channel. Also, my English teacher taught me how to play “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” on the guitar.

Anyway, like any other biopic/docudrama/whatever, I went into watching Bohemian Rhapsody with a generous amount of salt grains. Obviously, I don’t expect accuracy in these kind of movies; not only are we essentially trying to boil down three decades worth of a career into over two hours of run time, but artistic licenses abound to make things much more interesting for the movie goer. The same thing goes for Bohemian Rhapsody: I’m not expert on the band or their front-man Freddy Mercury, but I still got the sense that a lot was glossed over, and some context was sacrificed for streamlining the run time.

So, what we’ve got here is a trip of highlights following Freddy Mercury’s first hookup with the band that would become Queen, record their first album after selling their van, getting signed by EMI, getting engaged to his girlfriend, questioning his sexuality while the band tours America, recording the titular song, getting bigger, starting an affair with their manager, coming out to his fiance who then breaks things off with him, recording “We Will Rock You”, getting even more popular, recording “Another One Bites The Dust”, estranging himself from the band after he signs a two-album solo deal with CBS Records, contracts the AIDS, makes up with the band just in time to play the Live Aid festival in 1985. The end.

Of course, I understand why the makers of the movie would focus more on the hits and ending things on the big triumphant comeback at the Live Aid concert. This wasn’t an exhaustive documentary, this was a biopic of sorts. As such, it’s an entertaining soap opera drama of sorts that happens to be based on the life and times of Freddy Mercury and the band he helped to make famous, and the wackiness that came with it. Everyone doe a decent enough job playing their respective parts; I do have to say, though, that while Rami Malek does a bang-up job portraying Mercury, he always looks like he’s about to sneeze. My favorite bit, though, happens to be with the band’s interaction with EMI executive Ray Foster, who is played by Mike Myers. The guy from Wayne’s World is telling Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody” will never be a hit. I don’t care if it may not have happened, that was too good to pass up.

Overall, Bohemian Rhapsody was a rather entertaining diversion, based on a band I had a mild interest in. Unlike Oliver Stone’s The Doors, though, watching Bohemian Rhapsody didn’t really kickstart an interest to really research the history of the band or really dive into their discography, like I did with The Doors back in the day. But, I did feel it was engaging and heart-rendering and joy-inducing all the same. At least they played my favorite song over the end credits, albeit an edited version of “The Show Must Go On”. I’m not crying, there’s something in my eye…DON’T LOOK AT ME!

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