Picks and Pans Review: Purple Rain

UPDATED 08/06/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 08/06/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

Whenever Prince performs the songs he wrote for this rock musical, it's clear he has the makings of a movie star. He has the brash directness and hip-swaying sexuality that the camera craves. The main problem with Purple Rain is that Prince sometimes stops singing. (The sound track album has its own problems, though; see p. 20.) The movie interrupts its 15 numbers for a self-pitying, pretentious story about the Kid, as Prince's character is called, who has an innovative musical act nobody appreciates and a violent home life nobody would want. At the local nightclub he is taunted by the crass dandies who share the stage with him; at home he is haunted by the sight of his black father beating his Italian mother. After the Kid similarly abuses his girlfriend, she warns him, "Like father, like son." Essentially Purple Rain is an insidious instance of the MTV-ization of American movies. The musical numbers could easily exist as videos. Prince hoards all his expressiveness for his songs. Without music to tell him which postures to play with, he is nearly immobilized and he tries to sustain a character with one acting device, a pouty lip. As the lady friend, Apollonia Kotero can throw back her hair with the best of them, but the character is just an ornament. Worst of all, the movie's misogyny, rivaling that of the most outrageous antiwoman videos, is like nothing seen on the big screen this year. Crudely directed by Albert Magnoli, the film uses physical abuse to connect with the audience. It looks for laughs when a guy throws a woman in a dumpster and for tears when the Kid slaps his lover around. Simplistic, superficial and surprisingly sentimental, Purple Rain is everything Prince's music is not (P,)

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