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.