It’s Flashback Friday!
This Week’s Flashback Movie….
Release Date: November 2, 1990
Runtime: 95 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros.
Cast: Prince; Morris Day; Ingrid Chavez; Jerome Benton; Mavis Staples; Tevin Campbell
Prince is an extremely talented guy. His music and his moves are hallmarks of the 1980s. “Graffiti Bridge,” his unofficial 1990 sequel to his seminal 1984 hit “Purple Rain,” will not dissuade anyone from thinking as much. His prowess as a filmmaker, however, is another story.
The hanging-by-a-thread plot has Prince portraying (as he did in “Purple Rain”) The Kid, a Minneapolis nightclub owner/performer. He is the proprietor a club called Slam Glam, which, like the other clubs in the city’s Seven Corners district, is in danger of being taken over by Morris Day, owner of another hot spot called Pandemonium. In true 1950s drive-in movie fashion, he challenges Day to a song-off: Whoever can perform the best song will get control of Slam Glam and, consequently, the Seven Corners. With the assistance of Aura, a beautiful angel (I think), The Kid maintains his belief in himself and in his victory over the bad guys.
The whole film is essentially an excuse to stage many, many performance sequences not only by Prince, but also by The Time (of which Morris Day is the lead singer), Mavis Staples, Tevin Campbell and others. These are actually OK. Instead of attempting to direct a feature film, which requires characters, plot, conflict and sharp writing, he perhaps should have tried his hand at helming music videos. He has an eye for style and the whole movie has that late-‘80s, early-‘90s music video look: lots of shadows, fake smoke and silhouettes.
But whoa to the rest of the movie! It just makes no sense. Who is this angel? Where did she come from? Is she, like, a Greek Muse sent to inspire The Kid? If she is an ethereal being, how is she able to die at the end? The screenplay is a disaster, with lame dialogue and lots of breathy voice-overs that are meant to be inspirational. The acting, with the exception of Prince who does have an undeniable charisma, is amateurish. It’s almost as if Prince corralled his buddies from home to be in the movie rather than hire professional actors with training. The actors can’t be completely faulted, though: None of the characters have any depth or distinct traits that set them apart from your basic caricatures (i.e., the good guy, the bad guy, the love interest, the floozy, etc.).
The set design is well done; purposefully cartoonish and going for a comic book feel, sort of like the design of “Dick Tracy.” Everything looks artificial, like it is made of foam, further enhancing the music video feel of it all.
But, basically, Prince has made a 90-minute music video. Unfortunately, he intended to make a 90-minute feature film and, in that respect, the film doesn’t work. Watch “Purple Rain” instead. You’ll get the music video feel but with added bonuses like plot and character.