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Yesterday **

It’s clever premise undone by a lame love story.  

Is it worth $10? No 

“Yesterday” has a fantasy premise ripe with possibilities: In an alternate universe, a struggling musician is the only person who has heard of The Beatles. As the band’s music becomes his own, he’s an immediate success. Commentary on fame, pop culture, the music industry and more would make sense here, all accompanied to the classic and iconic Beatles music that people still know and love today.

So what does director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) do? He makes “Yesterday” a lame, predictable love story. It’s deflating. Here we are wanting to see how the British Jack (Hamish Patel) will make The Beatles catalogue his own, and constantly we’re reminded of his latent love for his manager Ellie (Lily James). Why immerse us in such trite romance when all around you is a genius conceit waiting to play out?

Part of the reason for the love story could be screenwriter Richard Curtis, whose claim to fame is writing romantic comedies (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Love, Actually,” “Notting Hill,” and many more). Love angles may not be all he knows, but it’s clearly where he’s most comfortable, and “Yesterday” does not benefit from this expertise at all.

For those attending because they love The Beatles’ music, you will only be mildly satisfied. The big ones are here, including “Yesterday,” “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “Let It Be,” and numerous others. Reports are that the rights to 20 Beatles songs were optioned for the film, though only 17 made the final cut.

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Other songs are mentioned but not heard (“A Hard Day’s Night”), but the bigger problem is that too often Jack starts a song and doesn’t finish. Consider: These songs are making Jack the most famous musician in the world, yet only on a few occasions do we hear an entire ballad. I know, I know: It’s The Beatles, and we already know the music. But aren’t many attending the film because they want to hear the music? Also: The world of the movie should take precedent over the real world, meaning A) the filmmakers shouldn’t assume everyone in the audience knows all the songs, and B) it does the story a disservice by cutting songs short. There’s nothing wrong with detailing why the main character is now famous.

To Boyle and Curtis’ credit, it is fun to see Jack try to remember the lyrics to The Beatles’ music, even having Jack go so far as to visit Liverpool for inspiration. What’s more, it’s a clever twist to have more than just The Beatles vanish from the world, and each time it happens it brings a smile. Too bad these inspired moments are not more plentiful.  
It’s understandable that Beatles fans would be intrigued by “Yesterday,” but cautious optimism would be a smarter approach. The film plays like a loving homage to the band, going so far as to have one character say the world is a better place with The Beatles’ music in it. That is true, but in this case not even The Beatles can save “Yesterday” the movie.

Did you know?
At one point, Harry Potter is mentioned. Harry’s parents were Lily and James; actress Lily James plays the love interest here.