Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Score: C+

Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander

Running Time: 134 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

"Most bands aren't Queen," one of the members tells a dismissive producer. It's true. They're one of the most entertaining and talented rock bands ever assembled. So it's a shame that the movie of their lives is like so many other musician biopics.

2007's brilliant parody Walk Hard eviscerated Oscar-nominated movies like Ray and Walk the Line, relentlessly mocking all the clichés they're guilty of. Bryan Singer and writer Anthony McCarten (Darkest Hour) must not have gotten the memo, because they looked at that long list and embraced almost all of them.

Does young Freddie have a deeply religious father who doesn't understand him? Oh, yes. Does he have a serendipitous audition for a small band that goes on to conquer the world? Yup. And is there a montage of him pushing everyone he loves away because of his addiction to drugs and alcohol, culminating in an embarrassing public spectacle? You bet there is.

Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) commands the screen from the first frame to last. He's tremendous, making good on the promise he's shown in small roles in small movies over the past decade. He nails the paradox of Freddie: a showman who's deeply lonely, a performer who's never really himself.

But the movie is content to jump from A to B to C, without much consideration of how each scene should play out. So an early birthday party scene is a total mess, while Freddie's coming out to his wife (Lucy Boynton) finally lets the film slow down enough to focus on real emotions.

There's also the matter of the film's rating. A life as decadent as Freddie's needs an R-rated movie to really dig into his addiction and wildness. (When the film began production, Sacha Baron Cohen was to play Freddie, but "creative differences" caused him to leave the project.) So instead we get a lot of Malek breaking glasses and looking sweaty, and one montage of him being led by his devious manager/sometimes lover Paul (Downton Abbey's Allen Leech) through a gay nightclub.

At least the music is incredible. Malek lip-syncs perfectly, and the sound mixing is top-notch. The film's big finale – the band's legendary gig at Wembley for Live Aid – is almost re-created in full. The performance, of course, is magnificent, even if the CGI crowd is distracting.

If the surviving band members had gotten out of the way, there could have been a movie that pushed boundaries the way the band did. Instead, it's as safe as a sing-along of "We Will Rock You" at a baseball game.


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.