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Beyond the Sea (2004)

Bobby Darin Biopic

In the era of cool, he was the soundtrack.

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 121 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12a

There’s no point in denying it, so I won’t even try. Kevin Spacey is a hugely talented man. Not only is he one of the finest actors of his generation, but he’s also proven himself to be a more than capable director and, if ‘Beyond the Sea’ is anything to go by, he’s not half-bad at singing either. In fact, the guy’s so good at everything he does that it’s only his increasingly-obvious pattern baldness that prevents folk like me from wanting to kick him.

But, having said all of that, I can’t help but wonder how worthwhile a project this is for the man. It tells the life story of renowned 50s and 60s crooner Bobby Darin, the mook-talkin’ smoothie who’ll always be remembered for a range of all-time classic recordings from the sublime ‘Beyond the Sea’ or ‘Mack the Knife’, to the ridiculous ‘Splish Splash’. It’s film-within-a-film stuff, with Spacey taking us inside the hero’s attempts to play himself in his own life story. That leaves the door swinging wide open for flights of fancy as much as historical accuracy, with Darin looking back on his days with the mantra “memories are like moonbeams – we do with them what we want.” (So not really like moonbeams at all, then).

Without a doubt, this is a well-made, well-acted, well-performed movie. Spacey’s direction has a style all of its own, and he seems happy with the challenge of having fun behind the camera even when he spends almost every scene of the film in front of it. What really impresses, though, is his delivery of Darin’s music. He’s got a fine voice on him, and I’ve already amended my Chrimbo list for this year to ask Santa for a copy of the soundtrack.

The problem I couldn’t get past, though, is that Darin’s story just isn’t particularly interesting. There’s only one real twist in his tale, and it’s nothing more shocking or controversial than you’d find in any small screen soap opera. Sure, Darin was one of the music industry’s all-time greats. He married movie star Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth, playing her here, bears a striking resemblance), picked up an Oscar nom, and spent many of his years (including childhood) battling against illness. But so what? It’s not that I don’t have respect for the man – that’s not the issue. The point is that I just don’t think his story was eventful or different enough to merit this film being made and, for all his ability and enthusiasm, Spacey fails to convince me otherwise.

‘Beyond the Sea’ is a nice film to watch, and an even better film to listen to, but as a whole it left me feeling a little under-whelmed. I know biopics are the in thing just now (it’s not long until the Ray Charles story ‘Ray’ hits the screen as well), but there have been plenty more interesting characters in history to choose from than Bobby Darin. Sorry, Bob – it doesn’t mean to say I’m not still loving your work.

It's Got: Dancing in the street, and some literal record-breaking.

It Needs: To straighten up that toupee.


See it for the music