A guy I know reserves a phrase for certain books, movies, TV shows, or art like those Elvises-on-black velvet: "It's so bad that it's good." He'd say that about this 1978 comedy that chronicles a day in the life of six Jersey teenagers desperate for tickets to The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964 to see the Beatles in their first American televised appearance. Despite the fact that the one and only Steven Spielberg is Executive producer, heed my warning: you must be a Beatle fan or in the mood for a wacky bit of fun. It's not Spielberg's best and it might be lost on someone who couldn't understand why hundreds of teenage girls would gather outside New York's Plaza Hotel chanting, "We love you Beatles...oh yes we do". The film's even got a faux Ed Sullivan (WILL JORDAN). The real Murray the K appears as himself. He was New York's number one radio DJ in those days who announced the time in Beatle minutes after the hour and the weather in Beatle degrees. Of course the real Beatles are not in the movie...we only see them on the televisions that the characters are watching.
Spielberg teams up again with writer and director Robert Zemeckis, as he did for Used Cars, and for the box office bomb "1941." In fact most of this movie's cast was also in "1941." But you may remember them from more popular roles--EDDIE DEEZEN played Eugene in "GREASE"; WENDIE SPERBER was Amy in "Bosom Buddies," the TV sitcom that launched the career of Tom Hanks; and NANCY ALLEN was featured in "Carrie" and Brian De Palma's "Dressed to Kill."
Larry DuBois (Marc McClure) "borrows" a limo to impress Grace (THERESA SALDANA) by driving her to New York to see the show. Grace is a budding photographer who's after exclusive photos of the Beatles...that's if she can get into the studio.
Rosie Petrofsky (SPERBER) tries to win tickets by calling in to Murray the K's show and answering questions like "Who is at the same time the oldest and youngest Beatle?" (If you don't know the answer this movie may not be for you.) She finally gets through and wins, only to be trapped in the hotel with "Ringo" Klaus (DEEZEN), who's broken the elevator. Pam Mitchell (ALLEN) is supposed to elope that night with her boyfriend. "I can't be spending money on Beatle records," she tells Rosie, "I'm getting married." But Rosie steers her along for the ride.
Tony Smerko (DICICCO) wants to ruin the show somehow because "that limey trash" is drawing attention away from real rock 'n roll singers like Elvis, and girls' attention away from him. He's especially interested in the attention of Janis (SUSAN NEWMAN) who has her own agenda. She's into protest music and demands that her father, a record-store owner who wears a Beatle wig, to stock more Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. She plans to join other protestors and start a riot at the show. They hook up with Peter, whose father has three tickets, but won't give them to him unless he gets a haircut...like a marine's!
Will Larry win Grace's heart? Will Tony and Janis ruin the show? The movie's predictable...they all end up seeing the Beatles in person--in one way or another--and the character who cared least becomes...oops I almost spoiled it for you.
My favorite character is Rosie, the quintessential Beatlemaniac who faints at the sight of her beloved Paul McCartney. And Deezen is bizarre as "Ringo" Klaus, Rosie's male counterpart. The characters pull all sorts of schemes to get tickets, things that one couldn't possibly get away with. That's why the film is so bad that it's good, and as expected the soundtrack is all early Beatle music, yeah, yeah, yeah.
When the temperature drops to twenty Beatle degrees and you're nostalgic for that February weekend, or if you weren't there but want to see what all the fuss was about 35 years ago, rent "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." (By the way the answer to that question is RINGO. He was the oldest in age but the last Beatle to join the group.)
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