So I just watched the famous 1980s film about a little man from another planet who falls in love with an earthling and wants to take them away from it all. Of course I’m talking about Purple Rain.
Don’t tell me Purple Rain isn’t science fiction! Have you seen it? The bizarre costumes and make up? The weird characters (Morris Day and his flunky Jerome)? The strange vehicles (Prince’s purple motorcycle, the yellow Lincoln Continental)? The unearthly locations (Minneapolis)? See what I mean, pure science fiction!
And that isn’t even taking into account the star of the thing, Mr. Androgyny, Prince. A tiny man who wears white puffy shirts that would make Seinfeld envious, and enough leather and studs to open his own Mad Max apparel store. A man who wears giant round sunglasses whose lenses are each as big as Captain America’s shield. A man who gave purple its due as a color, long before Barney the Dinosaur.
The plot is your basic musician’s bio-pic story: a talented kid (that’s what he’s called here, Kid) with a shitty life, in this case a physically abusive ex-Mod Squader father (Clarence Williams, III), sees his music as his ticket out of Smallville to the Big Time. Into his life drops the yin to his yang (the Dippity to his Do), in the form of the super-cute, and science fictionally-named!, Apollonia. She’s very pretty – her costumes show off her ample chesticles – but not a great actress. She’s not god awful, but merely serviceable. Her little dance group Apollonia 6 presages the Pussycat Dolls, with its mix of lingerie, singing and gyrations.
Morris Day plays a buffoon named, what else, Morris. It’s almost like he was dropped in from another movie; his comedy was that broad. And when he gets into an Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first” type routine with his dopey sidekick Jerome, it just about stops the movie.
Now, I was around in the 80s, but I don’t remember seeing so many people sporting poofy mullets and wearing eye shadow and mascara. It’s like the movie Liquid Sky vomited all over this one.
I love Prince’s early music, which is primarily why I got the movie to finally watch it. This movie is full of his classics. But as an actor here, I think he pretty much stinks. He has two facial expressions: a slight smile and a sorta frown. And he often casts his eyes down, which is something George Clooney was famous for early in his career, before director David O. Russell browbeat it out of him while making the film Three Kings. Prince’s speaking voice is very small and slight; it’s like he’s afraid to be heard.
But when he’s on stage performing: OMG! He’s sexy, magnetic, dangerous, ferocious. If he could somehow have tapped his stage performance while he was off stage, I think he could have been brilliant.
The movie Purple Rain was co-written by William Blinn, creator of the 1970s TV buddy cop classic, Starsky and Hutch. I don't know about you, but I think Starsky would rock the poofy mullet, and Hutch would so don the leather and studs. And they’d both wear the Captain America shield sunglasses.