Eight Days a Week, the new Beatles documentary directed by Ron Howard, has been released via Hulu and in select theaters and fans around the world have had the chance to enjoy a loving trip down memory lane.
The film focuses specifically on the years the Beatles spent touring the world with anecdotes from the four men at the center of the storm as well as historical context and fan reactions. This specific focus helps separate Eight Days a Week from other Beatles documentaries and allows Howard to dig deeper into the impact these formative years had on the band and the world at large. There were, however, some stories that warranted more digging (the Philippines trip barely gets a mention and is probably the best example of why they needed to stop touring) and the DVD release of the documentary may end up being the superior document.
There is a lot to love about this documentary. While some portions of it feel like deleted scenes from the Beatles Anthology (some of Harrison and Lennon’s bits were used in both) the real heart of this story comes from the testimonials of fans like Elvis Costello and Whoopi Goldberg. When Goldberg talks about how important the Beatles were to her as a child and then recounts her mother surprising her with tickets to Shea, only the most cynical among us would be without a lump in our throat. More testimonials such as these would have narrowed the focus even further and been a greater document to the power of this band and their music for new fans with no frame of reference to the era.
It is clear that Ron Howard is attempting to straddle a line between die-hard Beatles fans and the new generation of fans. While there is an abundance of never before seen video footage, some footage is colorized for the viewers who won’t watch black and white. The colorization, in almost every instance, is distracting and needless and makes the footage look older than it actually is but it is understandable why the choice was made.
Howard has assembled an excellent theatrical documentary and, as mentioned above, there is undoubtedly hours of footage and commentary to be seen down the line but even with a hyperfocused narrative, the film could have been twice as long and still left things out.
At the end of the day, it is nice to see The Beatles allowing outside creative people tell these stories with access to Apple’s extensive archives and the support of the Beatles and their estates. Ron Howard is one of the best directors in the world tackling one of the most compelling subjects of the 20th century and he does so with reverence and care but this film offers very little to the die-hard Beatles fan who has heard Ringo Starr proclaim that he was “an only child with three brothers” umpteen times.
The footage and audio is wonderful to see and hear and the celebrity testimonials are a huge, under utilized, treat but the documentary, as it is in its theatrical form, is not one that will get repeat plays like the Anthology or any of the Beatles films have over the decades.
There’s nothing to dislike about this film but there’s nothing to go running out into the streets screaming about either.