Is the New Beatles Movie Worthy of the Fab Four?

As movie ideas go, the latest from Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) is hard to top. The premise: In a world in which The Beatles are unknown, a struggling singer-songwriter has the opportunity to spread the band’s music around the world.

You see, some freak event has erased the entire catalog from existence along with the memory of the music. Only one young man (played by Himesh Patel) knows who The Beatles were. That’s the plot of Yesterday.

This idea came from Jack Barth and was written for the screen by Love Actually and Notting Hill writer Richard Curtis, who produced the film with Boyle. What’s more, the filmmakers got the rights to 17 Beatles songs to use, including (from what we can gather) at least one tune from The White Album.

Following the U.S. debut of Yesterday at the Tribeca Film Festival, we can start to tell if the film is indeed worthy of the Fab Four. Here’s what critics are saying ahead of its June 28 opening.

The filmmakers and cast of ‘Yesterday’ are first-rate.

Director Danny Boyle talks about the upcoming “Yesterday” during Universal Pictures presentation during CinemaCon on April 03, 2019 in Las Vegas. | Gabe Ginsberg/WireImage

For a project that involves the Beatles legacy to such an extent, fans of the Fab Four will obviously want the industry’s elite on the job. Yesterday definitely checks that box with an Oscar-winning director and nominated screenwriter. (Curtis received his nod for Four Weddings and a Funeral.)

Meanwhile, the cast may not be full of A-listers, but that’s to be expected when the soundtrack cost around $10 million. (The rights to Beatles songs are expensive.) Patel (EastEnders) seems well-suited for the lead and has the voice to pull off the tunes.

Lily James (Mamma Mia) plays his love interest, while SNL’s Kate McKinnon plays the manager of Ed Sheeran, who plays himself. (McKinnon looks particularly well-cast.) Looking at the casts of other Boyle films, this lineup is about status quo.

In short, the production team and budget were definitely worthy of the artists behind the music. However, judging by the synopsis and reviews coming out of Tribeca, Yesterday does not sound like the summer film that will knock out Beatles fans.

Reviews suggest weaknesses in the script and execution.

Ringo smokes while Paul and George joke with John as The Beatles rehearse at alpha T.V. studios, Birmingham, March ’65. |Birmingham Post & Mail/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

If you’re a fan of Love Actually and Notting Hill, chances are you’ll chuckle at the jokes and enjoy the light atmosphere of Yesterday. For those who prefer a different type of Beatles experience — say, more “Day in the Life” than “Penny Lane — this film likely won’t exceed expectations.

Writing for Variety, Owen Glieberman said “the movie isn’t truly about the world discovering the Beatles. If it were, Curtis and Boyle would have worked out a way to show us how the world minus the Beatles was a more barren place.”

Other reviewers also mourned the missed opportunity of exploring what a world without Beatles music would be like. Yesterday doesn’t deliver that, and it also doesn’t go far beyond the greatest hits of the band. Besides the title track, expect mostly singalongs like “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be.”

All in all, it sounds like the sort of movie the Love Actually screenwriter would write. It will have its share of fans and nice moments, but we doubt it’s the Beatles movie we’ve all been waiting for. Naturally, we’ll have to wait for an upcoming screening before passing judgment.

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