If Lily James didn’t steal your heart in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” or “Downton Abbey,” Director Danny Boyle gives you plenty of chances to lose it in this movie. As Ellie Appleton, she is the long- suffering manager of an average singer named Jack Malik (Himesh Patel). He’s just average until Y2K when there is a worldwide blackout and a bus hits him, knocks out a couple of front teeth and gives him a gift: a memory for Beatles’ songs unshared by his contemporaries or anybody else that he can find.
They also have never heard of Coca-Cola, so he has to order Pepsi all the time. Jack replaces Ellie as his manager because she’s a full-time elementary school teacher. Her replacement is Rocky (Joel Fry), the worst possible choice Jack could make as manager. Because of the popularity of Beatles’ songs, Jack rapidly climbs the ladder of success, which inevitably brings
him to choose LA over Ellie and England.
Soon Jack is singing the Beatles repertoire all over the US to great acclaim and is called the “greatest singer in the world.”
We all know that he is riding a bum horse and that sooner or later, because there’s Ellie and because he’s living a fraud, there will be a comeuppance. The fateful uncovering doesn’t happen until late in the film, of course, after Jack has nearly lost Ellie to nerd Gavin (Alexander Arnold).
Actually, we know—because we’ve seen this kind of movie before—that Gavin won’t be around for the wedding scene, but that’s OK. He serves his purpose.
But James! There seems to be no bad angle for the camera to find in shooting her face, and her graceful bearing adds to the charm. Patel, as Jack, is adequate but he stands no chance to winning this film with James in it. Ed Sheeran has a surprisingly big part, suggesting that “Hey, Dude” is a better idea for the song than “Hey, Jude,” but the movie is stolen by Kate McKinnon as Jack’s American agent, Debra Hammer. As she tells him: “You write the songs. You sing the songs. You make lots of money. We take most of it.” She helps him create his image. “Do I have to have an image?” Jack asks plaintively.
Of course. But Jack doesn’t really have to have an image. All he needs are songs by the Beatles.
As his situation gets desperate, Jack sings a bitter “Help!” in a late concert and we see his anguish. In most ways, this is a classic rom-com script but James and Patel take it out of that realm. Sure, it’s also a fantasy, but who’s caring in this light, sweet, gorgeous reproduction of the finest moments of the Beatles and delayed romance. Good stuff for the whole family, especially those who adore the Beatles and can’t imagine a day in which they and Coke could be unknown at the same time.
Annabelle Comes Home (R)
Short words about this one: Gary Dauberman is the writer/director of this trash, and he has done it before in “Annabelle Creation.” So, he has learned how to do it.
On the cheap, as here, his formula is simple and stupid at the same time: Get two nubile 20-somethings (Madison Iseman and Katie Sarife) to play teenagers, dress them in tight sweaters, make sure they have little or no talent and turn the special effects and lighting effects guys loose, find some things that go bang, shoot in an older home that creaks a lot and has lots of hallways and stories to creep around in after climbing creaking stairs, black out the lights except for some unreliable flashlights and turn everybody loose.
All you need to know you learn in the first few minutes as a cop says to Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson (the Warrens): “Nice doll,” referring to Annabelle in the back seat of their car. Wilson responds: “That’s what you think.” Only to have the description of Annabelle expanded by Mrs. Warren: “It’s a beacon for other spirits.”
The movie goes downhill from there and never recovers. I am left with a plaintive question I asked in this space after another similar “thriller.” Why are so many of these films made with Roman Catholic symbols and incantations and genuflections? Do Lutherans or Congregationalists never get haunted? Avoid this one at all costs whether you’re a believer or not.