A brisk, busy recap of the Beatles from 1963 to ’66 — when they were uniformly mop-topped, clean-shaven and besuited — Ron Howard’s documentary often plays as an advertorial gunning for maximum intergenerational appeal.
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the foursome’s lone survivors, reminisce at length, often benignly, in between and over concert footage, clips from A Hard Day’s Night and Help!, and press conferences. (Eight Days a Week is the first feature doc authorized by the group since its 1970 breakup.)
Though they are obviously the most prominent of the talking heads assembled here, their words aren’t necessarily the most illuminating, notwithstanding Ringo’s piquant admission that he, unable to hear his bandmates’ voices over the incessant screaming of their fans, had to “watch Paul’s ass” for song cues during their summer ’65 show at Shea Stadium. (Thirty minutes of that performance will screen after Howard’s film in theaters only.)
More revealing are the memories of interviewees like Dr. Kitty Oliver, an oral historian, who recalls being one of the African-American fans at the Beatles’ September ’64 concert in Jacksonville, Florida — a gig that the group insisted had to be racially integrated before they set foot on the stage.
Frantically rushing through the quartet’s prodigious output during these years, Eight Days a Week is best when it slows down, allowing a performance of, say, “I Feel Fine” to be heard and seen in full, rather than interrupting these soaring melodies so that Malcolm Gladwell can redundantly discuss “the emergence of teenage culture.”
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years
Directed by Ron Howard
Opens September 16; available on Hulu September 17