Film Review: “The Beach Boys”


  • Starring:  Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine
  • Directed by:  Frank Marshall and Thom Zimny
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time: 1 hr 51 mins
  • Disney

 The term genius is reserved for only the best of the best in a particular field.  In music that list includers Beethoven, Lennon and McCartney and a Southern California boy who wanted to be a baseball player, Brian Wilson.  Along with his brothers Carl and Dennis, cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine, Brian the Beach Boys created some of the greatest music ever recorded.  But the waves were not always smooth for the band.


Airing on Disney+, “The Beach Boys” is an in depth look into how a band that had to borrow money for it’s equipment from a member’s mother and endure a band name they hated achieved both the highs of fame and the lows of mental exhaustion.


Managed by the Wilson’s father, Maury, an aspiring musician himself, the group basically rode the popular wave of surfing music – which in the early 1960s was mostly instrumental -by capitalizing on the boy’s good lucks and Brian’s songwriting ability.  The band was riding high in the first half of the decade but when Brian decided to stop touring with the band and concentrate on the music, the band released some of their best work.  Not coincidentally, this was the same time period as the Beatles exploded onto the scene, causing Wilson and the team of Lennon and McCartney to create some of their greatest work, almost as in competition with each other.


But behind the scenes, things weren’t always as sunny.  Tired of Murray Wilson’s meddling, the band fired him as manager, allowing him to run their publishing company.  This same period  featured both highs (the classic albums “Pet Sounds” and “Smile”) and lows (Brian’s slowly crumbling mental state).  As the decade ended we learn that Dennis had been introduced to another aspiring musician, Charles Manson.  In 1968, the band released a song co-written by Dennis Wilson and Manson called “Cease to Exist” – later retitled “Never Learn Not to Love”) as a B-side to the singled “Bluebirds Over the Mountain.” It was Dennis who introduced Manson to record producer Terry Melcher, who had no interest in Manson’s songs.  It was to Melcher’s house that Manson dispatched his followers too on the night of August 9, 1969, unaware that Melcher no longer lived there but was renting the house to director Roman Polanski and his wife, Sharon Tate.


The film also chronicles how the band’s record company didn’t know how to market their greatest album, “Pet Sounds,” originally releasing it in England while launching a Greatest Hits album in the states.  It also details the difficulties the band had with Murray Wilson who, without talking to Brian Wilson, Mike Love and the others who wrote songs, sold the rights to the band’s catalog for $700,000, a steal when you consider that Bob Dylan recently sold his catalog for $200 million.


But despite the ups and downs, the music continues and it is the music that will endear us to the band for as long as we have music. 


On a scale of zero to five, I give “The Beach Boys’ ★★★

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