IT MUST BE MINE – The Beach Boys (2024)

The Beach Boys (2024), Disney+ (1h53m)

Home again after a long week on the road, I hit “play” on Disney’s new Beach Boys documentary last night, hoping for acceptable background music as I scoured and cleaned the kitchen counters.

Instead, it captured my attention, pushing the housework back a full two hours.

If you’re a big Beach Boys nerd (I am not), very little in this new offering may surprise you. But as a semi-neophyte, there were plenty of crunchy bits to hold my interest.

I absolutely adore the groundbreaking “Pet Sounds” (1966), in my mind one of the great albums of all time. But I also knew it was an outlier, Beach-Boy-wise, and before last night I knew shockingly few details of the band itself. Pretty sad, considering I was once a professional music writer. In my defense, by that point in my life (the early 90s), I’d written the Beach Boys off as a hollow shell of their former selves, a Summer music festival parody of what they once were. I had little desire to dig deeper.

My bad.

As a primer, the new documentary is pretty solid, and taught me a thing or ten. Directed by Frank Marshall and Thom Zimny, it peaks about two-thirds of the way through, between “Pet Sounds” and “Smile”/”Smiley Smile.” (To be fair, so did the Beach Boys themselves.)

The documentary breaks little filmmaking ground, but the nuggets we’re given had me postpone the dishwashing ’til midnight. This may not be the highest recommendation out there, but I was – if not fascinated – at least quite interested for much of the runtime. Every time the film pivoted back to Brian Wilson’s artistic process? I was THERE.

The soundtrack is unsurprising but hard to beat. There’s plenty offered about the band and its relationships that at best I only had had an inkling of. (Glen Campbell was briefly a Beach Boy? Sure…I think I remember that. Abusive Dad…yup…I know I heard about that…)

There’s an in-studio recording of Murray Wilson – Brian, Dennis and Carl’s father and the band’s first manager: drunk, angry and full of himself, it’s absolutely chilling. Brief acknowledgement is given to his physical abuse of the brothers as kids – his (literal and figurative) impact on the band being fueled by jealousy is hinted at, but left surface-shallow. Murray’s biggest F-U to the Beach Boys comes when he sells their entire catalog for a shocking $700,000: it’s estimated at half a billion, today.

Lawsuits, divorces and deaths (Dennis’ and Carl’s are footnotes in the end credits) are glossed over. Shamefully, there’s zero mention of Brian’s near-career-ending attachment to controversial therapist Eugene Landy (a rare bit of Beach Boy history that I’m actually familiar with).

Despite this, though, I kept watching.

The Beach Boys is a feel-good flick that holds the California dream-sound the band created close to its breezy heart. The staged, saccharine final scene is pure Disney, but the doc can be as sincerely upbeat, catchy, and frothy as “Darlin’,” the 70s-Pop-Before-Its-Time hit that closes the film.

Wouldn’t it be nice…if it was a bit better, though?

Three Huzzahs out of Five.

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