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Movie Review: Under The Cherry Moon

About I haven't seen any new movies lately

Previous Entry Movie Review: Under The Cherry Moon May. 3rd, 2010 @ 12:46 am Next Entry
The title card rarely has any room for a joke.

Under The Cherry Moon (1986 Warner Bros. Dir. Prince)

YUP! Directed by Prince himself. You just... just let that sink in for a moment, won't you? Yeah, I could say more in my opening statement, but why? Doesn’t that first line tell you what you need to know? Well, not completely. This isn’t nearly as bad as it could be, even if it’s not perfect.

Must… stay awake… to see… Santa!

The writer of this movie is Becky Johnston, who went on to write The Prince of Tides and Seven Years in Tibet, so she landed on her feet. The thing is, she’s just the titular writer, because the script was heavily edited during production. The year was 1986. John Woo was about to change the way action movies were made with A Better Tomorrow and Cronenberg's remake of The Fly would be along later that summer. While they were doing that, Prince was doing this. The story is fairly well known, but I’ll give you the quick version. Actors were hired, and then fired when it was clear they couldn’t act. The original director was canned for not bowing to Prince’s every whim, other actors quit, and a lot of money was wasted in a variety of ways. Then it was sort of a flop, partly because no one knew what to make of the movie which failed to be any kind of sequel to Purple Rain. There isn’t even that much music in the movie, save for background stuff. I haven’t seen the movie in years, and forgot everything I saw when I did see it, so let’s sit together and watch this bitch like it’s the first time.

Tru dat bro!

Right away, with the opening, we see how powerful Prince was at this stage of his career. While the movie was filmed in color, Prince got it turned into a black & white movie. Major studios don’t really do much trade in black & white, mainly because save for a few extraordinary cases, they don’t make much money. I heard one studio exec claim that you chop the box office in half by dropping the color, which was extra processing and expense anyway. And this wasn’t an independent movie that got picked up, this was a major studio production. We’re told right off the bat what kind of movie this is going to be, by a voice over no less. A voice explains that this story takes place “Once upon a time in Nazi occupied France” where there lived a bad boy named Christopher Tracy. Chris is a gigolo, and everywhere he goes, people know the game he’s playing*. We’re then treated to the mother of all spoilers as it tells us he died for the love of one woman less than 30 seconds into the movie. And you were worried about finding out Dumbledoor killed Snape with a shotgun on page 246! I think this is supposed to be the 1920s. Some of the fashions say 1926, but this is the most 1986 that 1926 has ever looked. Besides, all the cars all look like they come from no earlier than 1956 and Bela Lugosi’s famous stare is brought up, so that would be 1936. Tell you what. Let’s just say that this movie exists in the Between Times and get on with our day.
*It’s called culture and it won’t bite you. Do try to keep up.

Ooo! Another “tingler” joke needs to go here!

So the movie actually starts with a fairly funny bit. Chris is playing piano and making eyes at a rich woman across the room, only to have his partner in… whatever it is they do, send him a constant string of notes every ten seconds or so while he’s playing. This was just the opening credit sequence, the movie proper starts with another comedy routine where Chris and Tricky (who keeps calling him cousin, so I’m going with that) try to talk the landlady (who Tricky is screwing on the side) not to throw them out onto the street due to back rent. They convince her not to do away with them by virtue of having some cash, but clearly these two are on the lookout for a bigger score than what they’ve been bringing down until now. The thing is, Prince and Jerome Benton are really funny together. This might not be so bad actually, if these two screw around enough it might save whatever other flaws the movie has. They look in the newspaper and see some girl named Mary is turning 21 today, having a big party and that she’ll be getting 50 million as a trust fund. Chris decides that he’s seen the big score and Tricky decides that since he bought the paper he should get a 30% finders fee. Tricky is one of the best things in this movie, Jerome Benton should have been in more movies.

Now there’s an outfit you don’t see every day…
For a very good reason.

So we then skip over to the party, where Mary has decided to flash the crowd and take over the party with her own style. When she does, Chris is there, seducing her with his eyes and looking completely ridiculous wearing whatever Prince thinks clothes are. Seriously, I’ve seen characters in JRPGs that are more sensibly dressed than Chris is. Mary seems to have his number right away, realizing what he’s there for. Still, she doesn’t throw him or Tricky out, but joins a conga line before being dragged away to talk on the phone with her boring boyfriend. The guy is… like nuclear powered dull. She talks to him for a moment before Chris starts talking to her, reveling he followed her. He teases her, she tells him to get out and he keeps teasing her. He stomps out, and complains that her grapes have pits. This, evidently, was enough for Mary and she throws the two of them out.

Tell you what, make your own dirty joke and send it in.

Nope, this must be ’86. There’s an answering machine, which leads to a fairly comic exchange. So far, this movie is at its best when it’s not trying to have a plot. When the movie just lets Tricky and Chris play around and just be silly. It’s really fairly entertaining and honestly amusing. When the movie tries to have Chris and Mary play together, it looses steam. As a side note, the confusion about the date continues, since Mary shows up in a Jazz Age outfit, even while Tricky comes in toting a boom box. It’s like they just paid a bunch of people to hang out in a fantasyland where the sort of things that happen (and the kinds of clothes worn) in a Marx Brothers movie could still happen (and be worn), even in the 80’s. I’m torn between saying that Prince was trying to make something or just giving the old Chinatown excuse. You know “Forget it audience. It’s the 80’s.”

At least someone knows how to act like a gentleman in this movie.

So anyway, Chris falls in love with Mary through a shopping montage. He and Tricky talk about the idea, but Tricky reminds Chris hat the whole reason they’re in Nice is because they’re trying to earn money. Seems they’re in deep to someone in Miami, but I can’t remember the name and it doesn’t matter. Chris and Mary meet at a racetrack and they actually scamper and frolic while music plays over them. It turns into a full-blown montage of its own, including poor Tricky being angry about getting stood up. Aaaand then Chris causes all kinds of trouble by telling Mary’s disapproving father about them. This sort of arrogance always gets people killed in the end, as the spoiler at the beginning assured us. Mary’s father reacts less than ideally to the news that she’s been banging Chris. Tricky also reacts badly to the idea of Chris and Mary falling in love. As a result, the two of them fight and they break up the team. That’s a shame, because it means less of them playing off on each other.

What do you mean “I’m gonna change my name, annoy my fans and make a damn fool of myself?” You’d have to rock the Super Bowl to get any sort of credibility after that!

Chris and Mary run off for an afternoon, while Tricky gets himself seriously drunk. After the lovebirds come back, Tricky explains that the whole falling in love with Mary scam was just that. She takes this well, considering the fact that it shatters her entire worldview. Chris reacts well, considering he was going to give up the game for her. Everyone has one more little scene and then we race towards the climax. They literally race through the night, driving fast through the city streets before making up in the strangest makeup scene I have ever seen. The father’s thugs grab and beat up Tricky, then we see the father acting all insane and unhinged. The father has an Apple IIe in his office, must be the 80’s. So, not the 20’s. Glad we finally got that worked out. Also explains why the father is such a douche, he’s an Apple user. Yeah, suck it! I’ll stop saying that all Apple users are douche bags when they stop being so douchey. Sorry Apple lovers, you have a reputation and only you can change it.

Is he…? Yes, I think he’s wearing eye shadow here.

Tricky escapes, and goes to find Chris. He finds him and tells him that this shit just got real. Chris races off in a boat to get Mary, while Tricky gets back at the guys who beat him up. When Chris gets to where Mary is waiting, the father’s guys shoot him in the back, right in front of Mary. It comes right out of nowhere, like much of the father’s actions in the third act. They just lost sanity to the point where they just gun Chris down for no good reason. Mary leaves with Chris’s body, and we never really find out what happened to anyone involved. The next thing we see is Tricky in Florida, driving around in a Rolls Royce. Whatever happened in Nice, stays in Nice I suppose. Nothing is resolved. All we get is a scene with Tricky reading a letter from Mary where it’s reveled that she gave Tricky a lot of money to buy an apartment building. We then have one last comic scene and then… and then… then we end with movie with an up skirt on polka-dot panties. You stay classy Prince.

Classy 4ever!

So what do we have? A movie nowhere near as bad as I was expecting, but not as good as it could have been. Still, better than I thought it would be. Prince should have gone for pure comedy because he actually has quite a talent for it. Had this been a complete comedy, it would have done quite well, where as making a drama/comedy/romance mix didn’t quite come off. The disc is pretty good, has the music videos for the songs that were from this soundtrack, which was one of Prince’s better albums from this period. Really, what right does this movie have to actually be entertaining? It should have been crappy, I was expecting to be able to tear into the movie and make lots of jokes about Prince, but it doesn’t need them because it’s pretty good. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t really tear into this. However, it hardly matters. You know what the next film is, and that is a train wreck of glorious proportions.

Prince will return in Graffiti Bridge!
Yeah, thought that would be your reaction.

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Soundtrack: Prince - Under the Cherry Moon
Shhh, the show is on
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