As an inducement to dig into the Queen back catalog, Bohemian Rhapsody is an unqualified success. But when it tries to be a genuine biopic of a groundbreaking band and its singular lead singer, it’s more like a little silhouette-o of a man.
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A lively, uncomplicated jukebox movie. Bohemian Rhapsody is a feature-length earworm that leaves “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “We Are the Champions,” “Another One Bites the Dust” and the rest of them wriggling in your cochlea and helping to drown out any inner whisper suggesting that you’ve just had the wool pulled over your eyes by these masters of rock theatrics.
The critical failure of Bohemian Rhapsody is that, 134 minutes after the lights go down, the members of Queen just seem like four blokes who’ve been processed through the rusty machinery of a Hollywood biopic.
Despite its intentions to get close to Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody is as intimate as a sold-out stadium show, with none of the accompanying power.
Like Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody is three parts good but not terribly exciting, and one part absolute joyful, fabulous entertainment that makes you forget everything else around it.
This charitable act of resuscitation for the benefit of Mercury’s admirers is something that the film as a whole ultimately fails to accomplish, as Bohemian Rhapsody mistakenly believes that simply trudging through a workmanlike overview of the Queen frontman’s life will allow it to arrive at something approaching intimacy.
To the filmmakers' credit, and even though they don't entirely avoid the clunky factoid-itis that often plagues the genre, this is a biopic that favors sensory experience over exposition. It understands what pure, electrifying fun rock 'n' roll can be.
Bohemian Rhapsody honours Mercury the showman but never really gets to Mercury the person.
Appropriately for a group known for its theatrical, crowd-pleasing tunes, this authorised-by-the-band biopic carries itself lightly, serving up familiar plot points with panache and a sense of humour, while at the same time investing in the story’s emotional through-line, building to a genuinely moving climax.
The final hurrah for Mercury’s genius, this huge, hubristic spectacle lets you grant his troubled film a pass: at least it keeps on fighting to the end.