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THE BEACH BOYS

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What You Need To Know:

THE BEACH BOYS is a documentary on Disney+ about the famous 1960s rock band. The movie covers the band’s popular music and its influence on American culture. It discusses the band’s ups and downs, especially as the group finds itself in competition with the Beatles. Ironically, the competition inspired both groups to create the most acclaimed music of their generation. The core band members were composer Brian Wilson and his two brothers, Dennis and Carl. Their cousin, Mike Love, was a vital member, as were two neighbors, Al Jardine and David Marks.

THE BEACH BOYS discusses some of the band’s problems, but it’s more of a tribute to the band’s hits of the 1960s. As such, it takes viewers on a joyful, celebratory musical trip down memory lane. There are snags along the way. There are references to Brian Wilson’s mental problems and drug use, which he admits “messed with his mind.” Also, the band had problems with Brian’s father, who was jealous of Brian’s accolades. THE BEACH BOYS has brief references to Dennis Wilson’s encounter with Charles Manson and some foul language.

Content:

(B, CapCap, P, RoRo, Ab, FR, LL, V, N, DD, M):

Dominant Worldview and Other Worldview Content/Elements:
Light moral worldview with strong pro-capitalist elements about the gift of music and three brothers working together and with their cousin and two neighbors to bring joy to people through popular music, with some light patriotic images and content, but marred by some issues that include a strong Romantic attitude about artistic genius and the youth rebellion of the 1960s, the brothers’ father works hard to manage the band’s interests, but it’s said he’s sometimes mean and jealous, and references in one scene to the Eastern meditation that affected some young adults during the 1960s, led by the Beatles and the Beach Boys;

Foul Language:
One “f” word, one “s” word, one “d” word, five “h” words, one GD profanity, three light profanities;

Violence:
Light newsreel footage of violent protests in the 1960s and references to the Manson Family murders and rock drummer’s guilt about introducing Charlie Manson to the owner where some of the murders took place (the owner, a rock/folk producer, rejected Charlie Manson’s songs, and Manson later targeted the man’s former house even though he had stopped living there);

Sex:
No sex scenes, but there are light references to rock stars attracting girls while on tour;

Nudity:
Upper male nudity in shots of people at the beach and in the crowds at rock music performances;

Alcohol Use:
No alcohol use;

Smoking and/or Drug Use and Abuse:
No tobacco smoking but references to rock stars taking LSD and stimulants during the 1960s and composer admits that the drugs messed up his mind; and,

Miscellaneous Immorality:
Rock star admits he was jealous of the Beatles and their success, and rock star’s mother says her husband was jealous of their son’s songwriting and musical success, and the son never gets over his father selling his band’s published songs for a pittance and withdraws from the world.

More Detail:

THE BEACH BOYS is a documentary on Disney+ about the famous 1960s rock band, its music, its influence on American culture, and its ups and downs as the group finds itself in an intense competition with the Beatles, which ironically inspires both groups. For the most part, THE BEACH BOYS takes viewers on a joyful, celebratory musical trip down memory lane, but there are snags along the way, including references to meditation, drug use, one band member’s guilt about introducing Charlie Manson to a friend, the abusive father of three band members, and some foul language.

The movie opens by detailing the band’s happy beginning. The core of the band are the three Wilson brothers, Brian, Dennis and Carl. Their father, Murry, was a part-time songwriter, and their mother, Audree, a musician. Brian was the one most interested in a music career. He and his brothers were fans of The Four Freshmen, and Brian would enlist his two brothers and their cousin, Mike Love, into rehearsing and singing For Freshmen songs. They were soon joined by two neighbors, Al Jardine and David Marks. Jardine left the band briefly for a while and then returned after David had an argument with Murry.

Brian and Mike wrote the band’s first official hit, “Surfin,’” which became a regional hit with a small record label, which renamed the band from The Pendletones to The Beach Boys, although, in reality, only Dennis Wilson was an avid surfer. Brian’s father, Murry, got the boys their first gigs, and eventually convinced Capitol Records to sign the band for its first album, which featured two national hit records, “Surfin’ Safari” and “409.” Their second album featured the hit song “Surfin’ U.S.A.” The Beach Boys released two other albums in 1963, including SURFER GIRL and LITTLE DEUCE COUP, which regurgitated two songs from their other albums, “409” and “Little Deuce Coup.”

The Beach Boys were the top rock and roll group in 1963. However, in February 1964, while the band was touring overseas, The Beatles appeared on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW, turning the Beach Boys’ world upside down. In an interview at the time (shown in the movie), the shock in Brian Wilson’s face and voice seemed to say, “Why aren’t we appearing on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW?”

In the wake of their competition with the Beatles, the Beach Boys moved away from surfing music to produce hits like “California Girls,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “I Get Around,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” and a very popular cover of a song by The Regents titled “Barbara Ann.” However, the touring and the pressure to compete with The Beatles, led Brian to withdraw from the tours and focus on writing songs and recording the band’s background music using record producer Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound approach with a group of session musicians known as “The Wrecking Crew.” The recorded music for many of the most successful pop songs of the late 1960s and 1970s. The band hired Glen Campbell to replace Brian on tour, but Glen’s solo career soon started soaring into the pop music stratosphere.

At about the same time, the band members grew increasingly frustrated with the abusive treatment they received from Brian, Dennis and Carl’s father, Murry. They removed him as manager and instead put him in charge of the publishing section of the band’s music. Their mother, Audree, admits in the movie that Murry became more and more jealous of Brian, who started to be labeled a genius because of his musical compositions and his work with The Wrecking Crew. “I’m a genius too,” Murry tells Brian during one recording session heard in the movie.

The rest of the movie discusses Brian Wilson’s increasing mental issues, including his drug use that increased and exacerbated the problem. There was also Brian’s disappointment that the band’s record company didn’t get behind their innovative album PET SOUNDS. Inspired by the Beatles RUBBER SOUL album, PET SOUNDS included one of the most beautiful love songs ever written by anyone, “God Only Knows.” Despite that, the record company lacked confidence in the album. So, it released a greatest hits album near the same time, which cut into the sales for PET SOUNDS. Four months later, PET SOUNDS also encountered competition from REVOLVER, another acclaimed album by The Beatles.

As a result, Brian started working intensely on an even more personal album for The Beach Boys, an album Brian hoped would be even more innovative. Brian worked with a new lyricist for that album, and the other band members didn’t quite understand the lyrics, especially when one song seemed to be a weird ode to vegetables. Brian’s mental health deteriorated further, and he eventually stopped working on the album. However, before that happened, he and the band recorded a song that took the music world by storm, a wonderful little ditty called “Good Vibrations.” Then, when he learned that his father had sold the rights to their published music behind his back, for what in retrospect was a pittance, Brian withdrew even further from working on Beach Boys music, except for brief periods of time.

However, after “Good Vibrations,” the band’s new songs were not all that popular, and the period of releasing top hit songs was definitely over for The Beach Boys. However, in 1976, they started experiencing a resurging of nostalgia for their early music, and the band increased its tour dates and the size of their venues, sometimes with Brian and sometimes without him.

THE BEACH BOYS takes viewers on a joyful, celebratory trip down memory lane, but there are snags along the way. The movie’s main point is that Brian Wilson was indeed a musical genius who was brilliant when it came to harnessing the beautiful harmonies of his brothers, their cousin, Mike, and their friends like Al Jardine. The movie gives a nice overview of the band, its music and its influence on pop music. However, it doesn’t go into much detail about Brian Wilson’s mental issues and doesn’t go into many details about the band’s music after 1967.

In addition to references to drug use in the late 1960s, THE BEACH BOYS movie includes brief references to the band’s dalliance with Eastern meditation and to Dennis Wilson’s guilt about introducing Charlie Manson to Terry Melcher, a talented record producer and the son of Doris Day. The movie neglects to report that Melcher has said Dennis learned that Manson and his followers had killed people, so he freaked out and neglected warning the police out of fear. Also, the movie doesn’t mention that Mike Love recalls in his autobiography that Dennis told him he actually witnessed Manson shooting a man to death and hiding his body in a well. THE BEACH BOYS movie also doesn’t go into Dennis Wilson’s later alcohol and drug abuse problems and his tragic drowning in 1983. Finally, the movie also has some foul language.

Thus, while THE BEACH BOYS does discuss some of the band’s personal and professional problems, it’s more of a feel-good tribute to the band’s beloved hits of the 1960s. If you love that music, and MOVIEGUIDE® does, you’ll love the movie. However, the movie’s negative content warrants caution for older children and teenagers.


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