Apart from permitting U2 fans to gaze upon their rough-hewn idols, there is no obvious point of this movie.
Director Phil Joanou reveres the members of the Irish band to the point of unintentional hilarity. (Rob Reiner and company couldn't do a Spinal Tap on this; Rattle and Hum is already a parody.) Dogging the band's heels like a faithful puppy, Joanou does not dare to ask about U2's politically engaged songs, such as "Pride" (about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) and ''Sunday Bloody Sunday" (about the Troubles in Northern Ireland). The movie is afraid to challenge the authority of these politically anti- authoritarian musicians.
Rattle and Hum, which means to be a portrait of the band often called rock's social conscience, is the film equivalent of a centerfold pinup.
"What's this movie about?" Joanou asks U2 early on. "It's a musical journey," answers lead singer Bono, somewhat facetiously.
Rattle and Hum succeeds only in making U2 look condescending, like cultural missionaries here to tell Americans that we don't take gospel and blues seriously. If anything, the sequences showing the band's collaboration with the gospel choir the New Voices of Freedom and blues guitarist B.B. King make it seem as if U2 takes itself too seriously. In the company of these American musicians, U2 looks clenched, outclassed and pompous - like students trying to teach the masters.
If you can't say something nice, don't say it at all, right? So I will say that Robert Brinkmann's contrasty black-and-white cinematography powerfully expresses U2's earthiness and grit.
But I can't help but adding that Rattle and Hum is the first concert movie that has decreased my appreciation for the musicians. Spend your hard-earned money on a resonant U2 album rather than on this hollow piece of self- promotion.
U2 RATTLE AND HUM * *
Produced by Michael Hamlyn; directed by Phil Joanou; photography by Jordan Cronenweth and Robert Brinkmann; music by U2 and produced by Jimmy Iovine; distributed by Paramount Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 mins.
Bono - Himself
The Edge - Himself
Larry Mullen Jr. - Himself
Adam Clayton - Himself
Parent's guide: PG-13 (profanity).
Showing at: area theaters.