Picks and Pans Review: U2: Rattle and Hum

updated 11/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/21/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

Bono, the lead singer of Ireland's U2, has been known to throw a drum kit at the audience and set his guitar aflame. The four-man band made up of Paul "Bono" Hewson, bassist Adam Clayton, guitarist Dave "the Edge" Evans and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. has built a reputation on raw, blistering rock that's unafraid to confront politics or religion. That's why it's a shock to see director-editor Phil (Three O'Clock High) Joanou trivialize that impact in this documentary filmed during U2's 1987 American tour. The sight of the quartet cavorting about Elvis' Graceland home is a strained attempt to make the lads look Beatle-cute in the style of A Hard Day's Night. Onstage, Joanou uses primitive video tricks—billows of smoke, arty lighting, switches from black and white to color—to highlight Bono's rippling pecs and pinup potential at the expense of what's being sung. But U2 ultimately cuts through the detritus to deliver an unparalleled display of fiery, forceful musicianship. In Harlem, the boys join the New Voices of Freedom for a gospel-flavored I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. In Texas, they jam with B.B. King on the bluesy When Love Comes to Town. In Denver, they stun a packed stadium with their antiwar anthem, Sunday Bloody Sunday. In these moments the band forgets about making a movie and makes music instead. These are the moments that count. (PG-13)

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