'The Beatles: Eight Days a Week' is a magical mystery tour
"The Beatles: Eight Days A Week — The Touring Years," directed by Ron Howard ("A Beautiful Mind," "Apollo 13"), is a thoroughly delightful, crisply edited film that takes viewers to Europe, Australia, the Far East and the U.S. where, between June 1962 and August 1966, the Fab Four played in 90 cities in 15 countries.
Yes, you've already seen much of this footage — "The Ed Sullivan Show," the dashes to escape screaming fans, the famous descent from the plane to the tarmac, the witty comebacks at news conferences — but by using home-movie footage in hotel rooms, fly-on-the-wall tape from the studio control room, Howard's film often succeeds in making you feel it all from the four lads' astonished point of view.
As John Lennon says in one of his funniest rejoinders, if the band knew why people were so crazy about them "we'd form another group and become managers."
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Along with the talk — a lot of it from Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr — comes the concert footage, including a knockout "Twist & Shout" (Manchester, 1963) and a rendition of "Help" (Blackpool, 1965) that showcases the quartet's ineffable coordination of a disarmingly honest lead lyric, euphonious answer harmonies, explosive guitar licks and locomotive drums.
Along the way, Larry Kane, the Miami journalist who toured twice with the Beatles, weighs in, as do Whoopi Goldberg ("The idea that everyone was welcome — I got that idea specifically from them"), Sigourney Weaver (a teenager at the 1964 Hollywood Bowl show) and Elvis Costello, who confesses he at first disliked the album "Rubber Soul." Screening in tandem with "Eight Days A Week" is a new print of the 1965 concert at Shea Stadium with a soundtrack so clear you can finally hear the lyrics over the hysterical girls, including Lennon's hilarious gibberish intro to "Hard Day's Night."
If you watched the Beatles grow up as you grew up — or even better, saw any of these concerts (I was at the very last one, at Candlestick Park, in 1966) — you will probably feel waves of nostalgic joy as well as a twinge of sadness at being reminded that, like youth itself, it was all over so fast.
'THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK — THE TOURING YEARS'
4 out of 4 stars
A documentary directed by Ron Howard.
129 minutes (99-minute feature plus 30-minute Shea Stadium concert).
Not rated; contains some profanity.