The Beatles. Whether you love them or think they’re overrated, you can’t deny the legacy they had on pop culture, almost writing the playbook that pop music is following today. When a parody film documenting their rise and fall was made in the 70s, it did so to some cult acclaim. In 2002, Eric Idol re-examined the legacy of his parody band, as the world was getting reacquainted with the hits that inspired them, in The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch.
Reconstituting a lot of footage from the 1970s original, Can’t Buy Me Lunch, once again tells the story of the Rutles, a group of Liverpudlian rockers that set the Atlantic, and then the world on fire. A group that broke conceptual barriers and collapsed with mismanagement and mistrust. The 60s rock ‘n’ roller’s life story is intercut with Eric Idol’s narration, and now a variety of guest stars look back on the band’s bizarre legacy. One thing is for certain, the history of pop music will have a lot of laughs.
As you would hope for, the songs new and old sound like Beatles classics, and while it’s clear to see where the inspirations lie, the tracks feel solid enough to be standalone hits. Ones that remain highly listenable and enjoyable outside the film à la Spinal Tap’s discography. I suppose this is due to the talents of the Rutles, with Dirk McQuickly, Ron Nasty, Stig O’Hara, and Barry Wom, (or Eric Idle, Neil Innes, Ricky Fataar, and John Halsey, to you and me) possessing a pedigree of comedy and musical ability, that is clearly on display. As are the iconic moments of both bands’ storied careers being recognisable here, with absurdist twinges to accentuate the comedy, much like the music.
The unique selling point of this sequel, over the original, is the inclusion of the talking head segments, from household names mixed in with footage new and old from the first Rutles film back in ’78. It can be seen as a response to the recent revitalisation of Beatlesmania, following the release of 1 with the film’s existence serving to satirically highlight how much of a repackaging that album could be construed as. Yet, as with both products, you still get the celebration of the legacy. Can’t Buy Me Lunch allows a lot of familiar faces, like Steve Martin, James Taylor, the late great Gary Shandling among others to serve as talking heads, this approach like other mockumentaries, such as The Return of Bruno, utilise famous stars who are willing to get into the fun of knowing the fictional band. It is great to hear the musical perspective of the fictional pop group from renowned musicians, whereas the comedians, as is their job, manage to create comedy out of the relatable, and in this case recognisable scenarios, preaching their admiration to a group that doesn’t exist, so much so that you’ll believe the opposite.
Beatles fans are more than acquainted with the story of the Fab Four, yet the lovingly spoofed exploits of the Pre-Fab Four fuel a fervour of comedy. This re-examination of a re-examination, is more than meets the eye, delivering laughs both new and old, and an ample collection of catchy songs, that do a lot to evoke The Beatles greatest hits. Whether you’re singing along to them or learning the tunes for the first time. Fans of comedy and the Beatles should do more than just Let The Rutles Be.
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