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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Bohemian Rhapsody

“The Front Runner” and “Nobody’s Fool” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

I’m a sucker for meta moments. I can’t help myself. At one point in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” director Bryan Singer’s biopic about rock band Queen’s front man Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), the band meets with a producer at EMI records. The producer is Ray Foster, and he is played by a heavily disguised Mike Myers. It’s 1975, and Foster tells the band that their new single, titled “Bohemian Rhapsody,” can never be played on the radio since it’s six minutes long (three minutes is the max for pop radio hits). Foster also tells them that it’s not the kind of song teens in cars will crank up and bang their heads to. I hooted with the laughter the instant he said it, thinking about the classic moment in 1992’s “Wayne’s World,” featuring Myers, where he and his friends are in a car doing exactly that. Too funny.

While that scene is one of the many highlights of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” it also illustrates the issue with it. During the discussion, Foster questions the band’s references and made up words, chiefly “Bizmillah!” Foster doesn’t know what it means, and frankly, neither do I. There’s a moment there where it looks like Mercury will explain it, but he doesn’t. My only conclusion is that the word is indeed nonsense and has no deeper meaning. This is fine—it is what it is--though a bit disappointing.

The events of “Bohemian Rhapsody” take us from 1970, when a young Freddie was working as a baggage handler at London’s Heathrow Airport, to Queen’s performance at Live Aid on July 13, 1985, at Wembley Stadium. Between these events we breeze through 15 years of Mercury’s life, including meeting Queen band mates Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), and John Deacon (Joe Mazzello). As expected, the hits are played. Not only “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but also “Killer Queen,” “Fat Bottomed Girls,” the foot stomping, stadium rocking classic “We Will Rock You,” and “We Are the Champions,” among others.

While we do get glimpses into the band’s collaborative process, we don’t get much insight into their creative process. What I mean is best summed up by the sequence in which they record “Bohemian Rhapsody.” We see them work together to engineer the sound and get the right pitch on the vocals and sing the melodies. But the song itself seems to have come from out of nowhere. Why a song about a young man who killed someone? They wanted to create an operatic tragedy yes, but why that, specifically, as the subject matter? What do all of the random references and words like “Scaramouche,” “Fandango,” and “Beelzebub” have to do with the song, if anything? There is a lot of fun to be had watching Queen play together. There is also a lot of drama around whose song gets to be the single and whose is the B-side and things of that nature. The problem is that these are all superficial occurrences that never really get to the heart of what inspired the band members to create these legendary songs. They just kind of happen.

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Rami Malek is excellent as Freddie Mercury. Since he’s the focal point of the movie, it makes sense that his story is the most fleshed out. While lines are dropped about how the other band members are married and have children, Freddie struggles with his love for a woman named Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton) and his erupting homosexual tendencies. After a while they take over, and he can’t deny them. Freddie truly doesn’t want to hurt her, and it’s sweet the way he makes sure she stays in his life. This is in spite of his lover Paul’s (Allen Leech) attempts to shut her out.

In keeping with the brisk pace of the movie, Mercury’s contracting of AIDS happens a bit too quickly. It’s not that any of the beats in the story are skipped, it’s just that they feel breezed over. He parties hard, then one day he coughs blood. He then talks to a doctor, tells his bandmates, and the next thing we know it’s Live Aid and he’s giving a legendary performance. I’m not asking “Bohemian Rhapsody” to dwell on Mercury’s suffering, but it’s hard to have an emotional impact when flying from one story point to the next. By ending in 1985, the movie spares us Mercury’s health decline until his death in 1991, opting for text and photos to cover those six years instead. Just as well. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a celebration of a larger than life man, seen in all of his glory—the way he should be remembered. Buy it.

More New Releases: “The Front Runner,” about the derailment of Senator Gary Hart’s presidential campaign after he is caught in a scandalous affair, starring Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, and Kaitlyn Dever; and “Nobody’s Fool,” Tyler Perry movie about a woman who is possibly being catfished in an online relationship.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.