Still Crazy

Not a huge amount to say about this one, other than that it’s a nice film. Inoffensive and pleasant. It will make you smile for most of it and chuckle in places. 

It’s very difficult to pull off rock music in films, with almost all of them missing the mark because the music simply isn’t good enough. Rock films depend on the audience being carried away by the power of the music, which to my mind has only happened twice:

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The rest of the time, they’re talking about rock but playing some insipid dribble that wouldn’t pass muster in a children’s toy commercial. It’s like when Channel 4’s Faking It had a straightlaced Cambridge choirgirl trying to pass herself of as a “rock chick”, but her mentor on the show – a girl I vaguely knew – didn’t really understand what rock ‘n’ roll was about either so the result was an excruciating mess. You need more than image and more than attitude. Ultimately, it’s about the music, which is why nerdy goofball Jack Black’s endeavours generally convince.

That’s the weakness with 1998’s Still Crazy: the music is bland and sh*te. Stephen Rea, Billy Connolly, Bill Nighy, Timothy Spall, Jimmy Nail and Juliet Aubrey are excellent in it, but without an actually rocking soundtrack, the film could be about anything, really.

The aforementioned bunch are a defunct band from the 70s (plus Aubrey as their manager) who reform for a festival and make a comeback tour. They start off awkwardly, playing poorly, argue a lot, nearly split up, and then play a triumphant gig at the end. I spoil absolutely nothing in revealing that, because that is exactly the plot you expect and want to see. The script by the legendary Clement and La Frenais is mostly average with some standout funny moments, and everything ticks along in the tried-and-true formula of The Full Monty, Brassed Off, Kinky Boots, etc. etc. There are a lot of fun cameos, too, from Zoe Ball (who was big news back in ’98) to Rupert Penry-Jones as the young Ray.

The depiction of dive-bar venues and disastrous local shows is particularly well observed, and the sheer charisma of the cast goes a long way towards making us root for the band, which makes the film’s many misfires all the more keenly felt. It’s not a bad film by any stretch, but it does feel like rather a wasted opportunity. With better songs and a few more of those cough-splutter jokes, it could have been a lovely feelgood film like Almost Famous. As it is, it’s passable entertainment that’s fine to put on if there’s nothing else on.

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