A review of “Beyond the Sea” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: PG-13 for language and adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

 

 

Kevin Spacey’s audacious ego is in rare form in this ambitious vanity piece chronicling the short life and times of classy act Bobby Darin. Think “Mack the Knife’s” infamous lying body oozing life and you’ve got the picture.

Spacey has devoted years bringing Darin’s life to the big screen and I respect the effort.  But Sea falls short in many ways, from its vaudevillian-esque sensibility to the look-at-me-Ma attitude pervading every frame.

For those with only vague memories of Darin’s abbreviated career, a refresher. Bobby was a sickly kid from Brooklyn (rheumatic fever) with a powerful will to succeed.  His pushy stage mother (Brenda Blethyn as Polly Cassotto) encouraged her little man to take his talent to the limits, never giving up on his dream of playing New York’s Copacabana and always pushing his showmanship to its very limits.

The grand plan is to be bigger than Sinatra. In typical rags to riches fashion, the emotionally fragile Darin grabs the world’s attention with his catchy rendition of “Splish-Splash” and doesn’t look back, going on to record a series of bubble-gum hits while instigating a revival of big band songs and marrying popular matinee queen cum blonde beach bunny Sandra Dee (Kate Bosworth).

Spacey can carry a tune, no doubt about it.  He croons Darin’s repertoire of winners with effortless panache and a funky prosthetic nose that almost completes the transformation.  But Spacey is at least ten years too old to be portraying the baby-faced star, a fact that detracts from much of the film’s teen-idol years.

It’s impossible to deny that Spacey has his fingers in every bit of Darin’s pie.  He wrote, directed and stars in this elaborate conception; his life’s calling and he wants you to know it. Fantasy dance numbers clash with awkward appearances by ghosts of Darin’s past and cheesy dialogue (“Memories are like moonbeams, we do with them what we want”) that generates groans. 

A courting montage is unintentionally hilarious and the clichés flow like cheap bubbly. So bad that it’s good? I’d love to sit down with friends and a bottle of vino and wallow in every ridiculous moment of this inadvertent spoof.