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Purple Rain (1984).

April 28, 2009

The Scoop:
It’s hard to tell who should get top billing for this film — Prince or his momumental ego.

In this excessively transparent vanity project, The Artist Then Still Known as Prince plays “The Kid,” a Minnesota rocker on the rise. All the co-stars (including Morris Day, Apollonia and most of the rest of Prince’s extended entourage) pretty much play themselves. It’s supposed to have some basis in Prince’s real life rise to fame, but that’s probably pretty tenuous at best. The situations are full of age-old entertainment biopic clichés, and quite frankly, Prince’s character comes off as a major asshole. (Then again, that last part might be entirely true.)

But the plot is beside the point anyway; “Purple Rain” is all about the music, and it features one of the best soundtracks albums out there. Besides the title track, there’s “When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “I Would Die 4 U” — it’s a virtual greatest hits album. And the versions used in the film were all recorded live, giving them an urgency that could only be supplied by Prince and the Revolution at their creative peak.

There may be a lot of creaky backstage melodrama and Prince-puffery to wade through, but at least there’s great wall-to-wall music and those kooky ’80s fashions to keep you occupied. “Purple Rain” is a classic in its own idiosyncratic way.

Best Bit:
The oh-so-wacky “What’s the password” bit. Come to think of it, that’s probably the worst bit, too.

Side Note:
The symbol painted on the side of the gas tank on Prince’s motorcycle is actually an early version of his “unpronounceable symbol” name.

Companion Viewing:
“Krush Groove” (1985).

The screenplay.
The ’80s Movie Rewind.

Take a Look:
Who’s on first?

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