Review: 40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie

Score: C-

Director: Lee Aronsohn

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rated: NR

The last decade has seen a surge in documentaries about relatively unknown musicians. A Band Called Death focused on a group of young punk pioneers from Detroit. Searching for Sugar Man won the Oscar for its tale of a forgotten talent. 20 Feet from Stardom also walked home with gold, shining a spotlight on the back-up singers who add life to some of the biggest songs in history.

But we might have reached our limit. 40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie is strictly for that band's miniscule fan base. If you've never heard of the band before, that's not surprising. They never released a proper album in their heyday, and rarely toured beyond their home base of Boulder, Colorado. Unless you're already really into hippie folk music with flutes, this movie will not make you a fan.

Spearheaded by TV director Lee Aronsohn, writer and producer of some of the most popular and least pleasant comedies ever, this project mostly seems like an excuse for him to reunite a band he loved in college, a school he says he specifically only went to because they had the best drugs and most attractive women.

The first half of the film focuses on the history of the band, which only existed from 1970 to 1976. A big hit among the students and potheads at the University of Colorado, they stood out by eschewing drums and electric guitars in favor of flutes and mandolins, tapping into the "free love" vibe held over from the Summer of Love. But the typical strife – relationship drama, drug use and a lack of business acumen – meant they never reached their potential and eventually dissolved.

Unlike some other music documentaries, it doesn't seem like circumstances hampered them. It was their own decisions. They blew not one but two meetings with major labels: the first because they scoffed at the idea of adding a drummer, the second because their lead singer refused to wear shoes. (I'm not making either of those up.)

The second half catches up with the band members and the menial jobs they worked at in the decades since they walked away from their commune, and on the efforts of Aronsohn to get them to bury the hatchet and reunite. But almost every interviewee shrugs through their years of setbacks, meaning the audience doesn't care that much either.

Unless you saw Magic Music perform in the '70s and are already a fan, there's absolutely no reason to watch this. This is the biggest waste of time of 2018.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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