Speak no ill of Prince

Thoughts and prayers this afternoon go out to the social media manager of Vice, who bit the bullet and posted this tweet today to promote an article.

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Adam Tod Brown’s review, however, isn’t about the album. It’s about the movie (Rotten Tomatoes rating: 67%).

For starters, the acting is nearly across-the-board terrible. Sure, Prince is as charming as ever, but his performance is goofy and stiff and makes what is supposed to be a film set in the real world seem approximately as believable as most horror flicks. The only real saving graces on the acting front are Morris Day and Jerome Benton from the Time. While we’re supposed to be fascinated by the brewing romance between Prince and Apollonia, the already well-established bromance between Morris and Jerome steals the show at every turn. Watching the two of them together is a goddamn delight in almost every way.

“If you’re looking for a film that explains the mystique of Prince the personality or Prince the performer, in either case, you can do a lot better,” he concluded.

Fightin’ words for Prince fans on Twitter, apparently. Few of them appeared to have noticed that the headline didn’t refer to the music.

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Brown’s review is hardly the first time critics have torched the 1984 movie.

Here’s Chicago Reader Dave Kehr’s review:

Prince’s 1984 movie debut seems more like his deification, with an aggressively stupid plot line (supposedly autobiographical, but if that’s true, Prince must have grown up in a retirement community for burned-out screenwriters) that serves only to set him up as a paragon of artistic integrity, sexual prowess, and superhuman sensitivity. The story dynamics dictate that the film should have climaxed with Prince graciously accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, but instead director Albert Magnoli casually tosses the story aside, ending with half an hour of the concert footage that is the film’s only reason for being. The project would have been much more palatable as a TV special; as it stands, it’s just another symptom of the American cinema’s addiction to facile myth-making.

Vicent Canby of the New York Times:

In one of the dizziest of the film’s nonmusical interludes, the Kid takes Apollonia for a motorcycle spin in the country, tricks her into skinny dipping while he, fully clothed, looks on and then, when she tries to climb back onto the bike for the return to town, he maliciously teases her by pretending to drive away. Instead of belting him, as might be expected, she comes to understand his desperate longing for love and his inability – because of dad and mom – to give it. Where is Dr. Joyce Brothers when a kid really needs her?

With the exception of one comic bit based on the old Abbott and Costello ”Who’s on first” routine, ”Purple Rain” is completely without humor. The only wit comes in the music and in some of Prince’s lyrics, especially those for ”When Doves Cry,” ”Darling Nikki,” ”Let’s Go Crazy” and the title song.

The offstage stuff is utter nonsense. Mr. Magnoli, whose first theatrical film this is, has seen to it that the movie is so efficiently edited that the story ends sometime before the movie does. This is all right because it allows the movie to close with two successive musical numbers, which, in ”Purple Rain,” are the only things that count.

Fortunately for Canby, he died in 2000, six years before Twitter was created.

  • Jerry

    Purple Rain is a great sountrack for an absolutely horrible movie.

  • Zachary

    Yes. Yes it does. Next Question?

    Seriously, not a fan of the movie, or his music. Never met him, so I can’t speak for that, but I really don’t get the love for him. I understand the role he played in “Minnesota Music”, but I still think his music stinks. If you are into that, go for it, but I’ll be over here rocking out to the ‘Mats…

    • Jerry

      I believe he had some great songs, just nothing written after the mid-90’s.

      • X.A. Smith

        No doubt there is a plateau. But he had from ’79-’89, where he was untouchable. That’s a longer run than Stevie Wonder. Longer than the Beatles. I can’t think of anyone who put out that high level of quality for that long of a stretch.

      • lona

        He has a lot of great songs. It’s true that his last huge worldwide hit was in 1994, but it was from his 17th album.

    • RBHolb

      His guitar playing was genius. His lyrics had all the poetry of the instructions on a pack of condoms.

      • Zachary

        ehhh… just because he’s a good guitar player doesn’t make him a musical genius however. I mean, there is that guy who plays guitar with a KFC bucket on his head.

        • X.A. Smith

          Who is a musical genius? What kind of scale are we working with?

          • Zachary

            Some musicians who are better guitar players:

            The Edge. Carlos Santana. B.B. King. Slash. Noodles. Flea. Orianthi. Jimi Hendrix. Billy Gibbons. Meg White. Fab Morvan.

          • X.A. Smith

            Who is a musical genius? What kind of scale are we working with?

          • Zachary

            Now add the one of Wolfcastle saying “that’s the joke”. The inclusion of Meg, and Fab, and Noodles should be a clue that I’m not being (too) serious.

          • X.A. Smith

            Some of those guitarists are better than Prince. I would say Hendrix is a genius, the rest of them not. The Edge is a smart guitarist, but does not have technique to compare with Prince. Santana was great for about three albums, and never went further with it, and he ended up playing with Matchbox 20. B.B. King undoubtedly a great, important blues man, but he’s a better singer than guitarist. Slash can hang with Prince on guitar, but how’s his songwriting? Flea is a bass player. Prince was a better bass player than Flea, and Flea would tell you that. Orianthi is young, and is probably a better guitarist than Prince. I don’t care for her tone, but she can shred. Billy Gibbons is a better guitarist than Prince, at least in the one or two styles he plays, but I’m not gonna call him a genius. I am pro-Meg White in general, but I find no evidence that she’s a better guitar player than I am. Fab Morvan is a singer and dancer, and Prince was a better singer and dancer than Fab Morvan. They even let Prince sing on the records, because he was the producer and he played all the instruments and wrote and arranged the songs.

          • Buddy Guy.

          • X.A. Smith

            I’d rank him right around B.B. King. (Below Freddie King and Albert King).

          • Kathy Sarros Hebert

            funny but even Carlos Santana whom you’ve listed upbove when asked “how does it feel to be one of the best guitar guitar players?” his reply “I don’t know you’d have to ask Prince” The man himself knew Prince was right up there with the best of the best…One great guitar player recognizing the talent and greatness of another. I would say that’s pretty cool!!!

        • KTN

          I’m not sure Buckethead could join Sharon Jones mid song, rip a crazy solo, and then just blend back into the crowd backstage – but maybe, you know, cause he’s that good right..
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99WYDZP5gtQ

          Skip to about 6:55 and watch

          • I love the way he walks away and with his back turned, holds the guitar out for the roadie to take.

          • rallysocks

            Why on earth would anyone want to skip that much Sharon Jones?

          • KTN

            I know, I should have said, watch the mesmerizing Sharon Jones, and then watch as Prince does his thing, not skip her performance – which was amazing. And those Dap Tones, man can they play. She will be missed, but with videos like this, her indomitable soul lives on.

        • mnboy67

          One of the best live performances he ever had in my opinion was George Harrison’s induction ceremony in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a number of years ago.

          https://youtu.be/6SFNW5F8K9Y

          • KTN

            Yeah, nothing virtuosic about that performance – thanks, hadn’t seen this before.

      • X.A. Smith

        I think he’s maybe a better singer, bass player and drummer than he is a guitar player.

      • Khatti

        Misreading the instructions on a condom can have consequences. Maybe Trojan should have had Prince wright them.

        • RBHolb

          That’s not a good idea. Where do you think the screenplay for Under the Cherry Moon came from?

    • Matt Todd

      I completely agree. I never got it. Perhaps I didn’t grow up at the right time or something but his music has always seemed like just more pop.

      • X.A. Smith

        Perhaps that’s because he has had so much influence on pop, that the pop seems like just more Prince.

        • Matt Todd

          Perhaps. It’s all still just mostly blah pop music.

          • Mikhail

            And what the hell is wrong with pop music? Pop, short for ‘popular’.

          • Matt Todd

            I’m aware of what pop music is short for. I don’t care for most.

          • lona

            I guess you never heard of Prince’s Crystal Ball or Something in the water or Bambi or Sister or Ride or IT or Sign O the Times and the list goes on. Give it a try now that his music is on Spotify. There is so much more than the hits you hear on the radio.

          • Mikhail

            Your loss.

    • Kristen Green

      Zachary you claim that you never heard Prince’s music nor saw the movie Purple Rain. How do you know something sucks when you never saw it nor never heard it. That is calling the kettle black don’t you think?

      • Matt Todd

        I see nowhere that he said that

      • Zachary

        I have seen the movie. I have heard his music. I don’t care for them. Hence – the “not a fan”.

    • X.A. Smith

      The Replacements are the band that “have a role in Minnesota Music.” Prince is a worldwide superstar. Americans, and perhaps especially Minnesotans, don’t realize the scope of his popularity. If you can’t get into at least mid-80s Prince, I don’t know what to tell you. Perhaps there’s medication for that?

      • Mikhail

        Perhaps referring to ‘medication’ isn’t the wisest idea…

      • Postal Customer

        mid-80s Prince is arguably the worst of the worst. Have you ever actually listened to 1999? Not just the hits. It is horrendously dated. And I love 80s music more than anybody. The only truly listenable Prince is his real early disco stuff.

        I think you had to be a teenager, preferably a female teenager, in 1985, to truly count yourself among the Prince sycophants. Luckily I was none of that.

        • Zachary

          Agree. When I hit my “formidable musical years” The Purple One was almost a joke in terms of output. So I never developed a strong feeling for his music. I know others who are huge Prince fans, and they would fall into your target demo.

        • X.A. Smith

          That’s interesting how you brought gender into the discussion.

        • X.A. Smith

          1999 is early-80s. His artistic peak runs from 84-87.

        • lona

          Yeah, you’re right. Miles Davis was a teenager at that time, when he wanted to work with Prince after he heard “1999”.
          I wasn’t even born at the time. In fact I bought “1999” the album in 1999. It’s okay to dislike an artist or his music. It’s not okay to claim that music suck because you dislike it.

  • Rob

    89. 3 The Current is way into deification of The Purple One…

    • Zachary

      It’s bizarre. I tune out whenever they play one.

    • Matt Todd

      In general minnesota is as well

      • Rob

        I like a lot of Prince’s music and consider myself a fan. But the sycophancy surrounding him is just a tad creepy, IMHO.

        • Veronica

          I would have agreed with you a year ago, but Prince, as an artist, was an embodiment of true genius and the Divine.

      • Khatti

        It was great that we had Prince (I can’t really say we produced him, I think his artistry came more from his New Orleans roots). Now my beloved home state, impress me and produce an Apocalyptica or Rush or Rammstein.

        • Mikhail

          As a complete outsider, I disagree; the influences of being from that background in a predominantly white environment/community had a profound impact on how he listened to and later created music – rock and folk as well as funk and soul.

  • rallysocks

    I love Purple Rain the movie precisely because of it’s schlockiness. But then again, I’m a huge fan of MT3K and Lifetime movies.

    • Jerry

      I would love to see Joel, Crow, and Tom Servo do Purple Rain.

  • X.A. Smith

    The movie isn’t great, but as Ebert notes, the music is part of the film. Parts of the film are great, parts of the film are mediocre. While the acting and dialogue are uneven, the cinematography is good, it’s quirky (a quality wrung-out of big studio movies these days) and the live music sections are phenomenal. The music is some of the greatest, most original pop music of the 20th century. So, no, it doesn’t suck.

  • RadioDazed

    Prince’s best work was always his live performances. He would do things live on stage that, for some reason, he chose never to commit to record; but many of his official studio recordings are incredible. ”Purple Rain” – the movie – isn’t too different from Elvis Presley movies: a charismatic lead performing great musical numbers within a weak screenplay. ”Sign O’ The Times” is a better film.

  • lona

    Purple Rain the movie is just a music video for Purple Rain the album. No one expected to win Oscars, although Prince did win for the music.

  • Khatti

    I saw it when it came out. It was an okay way to spend a couple of hours.

  • lindblomeagles

    Although Prince is rightfully adored, honored, and revered for his MUSIC, “Purple Rain” and “Under the Cherry Moon,” both Prince movies, were not very good. I think Prince knew acting wasn’t his thing. Prince himself never tried starring in another picture again after “the Cherry Moon” flopped, even when, tired of Sony, he turned himself into a symbol to start the 1990s, and stopped recording under his contractual label. Purple Rain, the movie, is defining in that it created a kind of character persona for a wildly popular, but often reclusive, singer. His music, and that album in particular, (like Michael Jackson and Thriller) however, is Hall of Fame worthy, even if you’re like me, a guy who didn’t follow Prince or collect much of his music.

    • lona

      1. Prince has 3 albums in Grammy Hall of Fame (1999, Purple Rain and Sign O The Times).
      2. He starred in another movie (but we pretend that movie doesn’t exist).
      3. His label was Warner Bros.

      • lindblomeagles

        Shout out to Iona for savvy editorial and historical corrections! You know the Prince story! Way to go! I appreciate that. 🙂 There’s just no disputing Prince was a way better musician and singer than actor. For me, he’s part of Generation X’s triumvirate – Prince, Michael, and Madonna. Each of these mythical performers dabbled in movies with a mixture of success, but A LOT OF US couldn’t wait to hear, see, and witness their unparalleled talent on stage, on the radio, on the record player and cassette box, or in the CD drive. We can adore Prince and his greatness without nitpicking those who criticize his film exploits.

  • Veronica

    Our definition of “good” movies can be super weird in retrospect. Think “Crash” or “Avatar”.

    Leave Prince and his fans alone. He is dead and gone, and his absence is very, very painful for millions still.

  • 2Duv4Luv .

    The movie was nothing special but the album Purple Rain was a MasterPiece. A classic. How anyone could not like Prince’s music is mystifying to me. But to each their own taste.

  • 1817

    wow, most of these post r crazzzy, but hey i respect how u feel. as they say different strokes for different folks. however, my thoughts…Pruple Rain, the movie, soundtrack, PRINCE and the entire crew, were brilliant, and yes this includes the acting. i dont find anything about it cheesy. its a cult classic!! one thing i can sat about the music is Prince created his own sound and its called the MPLS Sound….no one since then has came close to doing this. Pruple Rain was ground breaking in many ways and to date has yet to be challenged.