August 20, 2010

Yellow Submarine (1968)

TO GET IDEAS FOR future movies to review with Dash, I recently rented The New York Times Essential Library: Children's Movies: A Critic's Guide to the Best Films Available on Video and DVD by Peter M. Nichols from our local library.

While most of Nichols’ recommendations were for older children, and some were downright questionable (Jurassic Park?!), his last entry was one that not only seemed appropriate for Dash’s age, but one I had overlooked in my [age withheld] years on this planet: The Beatles’ animated classic Yellow Submarine.


The gentle, colorful, musical people of Pepperland are attacked by the music-hating Blue Meanie (Paul Angelis) and his minions, who silence Pepperland’s citizens by turning them into gray, colorless statues. The captain of Pepperland’s Yellow Submarine (Lance Percival) realizes there’s only one group of people who can save them, and that’s the Beatles: John (John Clive), Paul (Geoffrey Hughes), George (Peter Batten), and Ringo (Angelis again).*

* According to Nichols, the Beatles hated cartoons, and they blew off voiceover recording sessions until the filmmakers had no choice but to hire sound-alikes.


Even someone who hasn’t seen Yellow Submarine can guess its two dominating elements: the animation and the music. And they’d be right.

The animation is reflective not only of the era (the late ‘60s), but also the Beatles’ then-psychedelic phase. It’s filled with trippy non-sequiturs that use a generous mix of pop-art photography and traditional yet far-out 2-D animation.

The music includes three new Beatles songs along with many of their classics, including “Yellow Submarine,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “All Together Now,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Nowhere Man,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and “All You Need Is Love.”

And the script? Well, despite the work of five screenwriters (including a rewrite by Love Story scribe Erich Segal) it’s really incidental compared to the animation and music, and is treated as such. The “Beatles” speak mostly under their breath, with put-on Liverpudlian accents, swallowing many of their punchlines in the process.

If you’re not a Beatles fan, you still owe it to yourself to see Yellow Submarine at least once. It’s more of an experience or a rite of passage, but see it to say you saw it.

What did Dash think?
At several points, I really thought Dash was going to say Yellow Submarine was weird, boring, or scary. However, he really enjoyed it, chuckling and giggling quite a few times. His favorite character was The Boob (Dick Emery), a rhyming, philosophizing creature who tags along with the Beatles…and who’s not as smart as he thinks.

Bonus: The night after watching Yellow Submarine, there was a glimmer of hope in Dash’s musical edification: I caught him singing “Eleanor Rigby” on his way to the dinner table.

Will your kids like it?
Watching Yellow Submarine with Dash (and his little brother Jack-Jack), I learned that what adults see as trippy, kids see as funny. They were both laughing often at the silliness of many of the sequences. I think kids of all ages would enjoy and appreciate the film, whether it’s for the animation, the antics, the music, or all three.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
If she’s a Beatles fan, then yes…but of course, if she’s a true fan, she’s probably seen Yellow Submarine already. Either way, if she’s never seen it, it can be a fun experience for her, you, and the kids to enjoy together.

Next time, let's take the newspaper taxi.

Yellow Submarine
* Director: George Dunning
* Screenwriters: Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn, Erich Segal, Roger McGough
* Stars: Paul Angelis, John Clive, Dick Emery, Geoffrey Hughes, Lance Percival, Peter Batten
* MPAA Rating: G

Buy Yellow Submarine from (DVD) >>
Rent Yellow Submarine from Netflix >>


Gemma said...

Too sweet! I'll have to re-see it after all these years.

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