Movie Review: Graffiti Bridge

Posted: June 13, 2010 in Movie Review, Reviews
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Movie Review: Graffiti Bridge

Abandon all hope…

Graffiti Bridge (1990 Warner Bros Dir. Prince)

Fancy’s Fun Facts: Technically, this is the end of a trilogy. We began with Purple Rain, continued with Under the Cherry Moon and now we are complete with this.

In 1990, everything started going wrong with Prince. The magic that had charmed him through the 80’s had worn off and he started a long and protracted decline. Between the name thing, the very public feud with Warner Brothers and the fact that the music really wasn’t kickin’ like it used to, the 90’s were a seriously hard time to be a Prince fan. While some may claim that the Batman album is where it all started to go wrong, or that Lovesexy was the signal that we were going down a different path, my own signal was Graffiti Bridge. Depending on who you listen to you’ll get different reasons but the fact is that Prince had a change of heart during the whole Black Album debacle. He trashed an album that was only days away from release and produced Lovesexy as a replacement. It’s at this time that the music and the man went through something of a spiritual shift. While Prince had always had a spiritual side to his music, it started to really shine during this period. Prince also started to resemble a hippy in many ways. He started talking about love and peace and spirituality and all that jazz quite a bit during this period, and it more or less culminated with this movie. Oh this movie…

Before we begin though, I’d like to personally endorse Bombay Sapphire Gin. I’m not sponsored by them*, but I couldn’t have gotten through this movie without their fine product.

Where will you be when your laxative starts working?

It’s very likely that this wasn’t intended to be a sequel to Purple Rain. In fact, I’m almost positive of that, even though I’ve never had anyone else mention it before. It’s pretty clear though that the idea was separate, but the character names from Purple Rain were laid over the story in order to secure funding. Prince had wanted to make something like a Bollywood movie, or an old school Hollywood Musical, only with his own Princey spin to it. The thing is Prince was starting to get ponderous and preachy at this point of his career. He was always splitting time between songs that were religious and songs that were sexual, from his earliest albums. After the whole Black Album thing it wasn’t enough to sing one song each album that was about God with vague and obscure references to Seventh Day Adventism. Nope, now he had to muddle the whole thing in vague spiritualism and really bad writing. I won’t say he got pretentious, because I don’t think it was pretense. I think he really believed and he probably understood to some extent what he was saying, it’s just the rest of us had a little trouble getting it. Add to that a studio that was getting as frustrated with him and he was with them and you’ve got a project that isn’t ever going to find its footing. There are several points for a drinking game you could go for. Every time the number seven is mentioned, take a drink. Every time the phrase “It’s just around the corner” appears in any form, take a drink. Any time someone says “What Time is it?” take a drink. Every time a musical number is shoe horned in that seems to add nothing to the plot or have anything to do with the story, every time Morris acts incongruously like a gangster… the list goes on. I’d suggest every time something seems to come out of nowhere and makes no sense you could have one, but you’d die of alcohol poisoning before you got twenty minutes into this thing.


Even Prince can’t believe he’s in this.

So the movie starts and… oh dear sweet merciful dog treats. Prince is waking up, sitting up in bed, seeing people who vanish suddenly and listening to a voice say “It’s just around the corner” several times like that means something. How long has the movie been running? 58 seconds. Too early to break out the gin bottle, isn’t it? Less than a minute and I’m already reaching for it. This one’s gonna hurt. You ever have a friend who has decided that they’re going to go through a spiritual awakening, only they haven’t read the books or talked to anyone or anything and so they’re not really coherent when they try to tell you about it? Yeah, that’s this movie. Prince decided he wanted to be more spiritual, but didn’t know how to say so and the whole things feels mildly retarded. The words “It’s just around the corner” show up on a moving letter board while The Kid (yeah, he’s back to being The Kid) plays around with his computer trying to make some music.


There is a sound effect of a woman saying “Mmmm!” at this moment. It’s just sort of randomly inserted

While he’s doing that, Morris and The Time are discussing how he wants to take over all the clubs in the city. It seems he owns part or all of the clubs in town except for The Kid’s club, which he wants to own as well. Morris has evidently been taking over clubs by being evil and making people eat hot peppers with him. I have no idea how his eating peppers and getting other people to eat them is supposed to make him evil and what-not, but they keep shooting him like he’s Don Corleone or something. This is a point where I think studio interference probably hurt the movie. This character was most likely not conceived with Morris Day in mind. It doesn’t seem even a bit like the character from Purple Rain, who was slick and unsympathetic, but not actually bad. Warner Brothers wanted Morris and The Time to reprise their role as antagonist though. I don’t think this would have been good without the studio demanding that it be a Purple Rain sequel, but it’s barely possible it would have at least made sense.



We’re then thrown into the first song, I’d get used to the movie having full musical numbers by the way. They sing “New Power Generation” a song which is so weak that Prince himself cuts away from it to show Morris and Jerome entering the club. Morris gives The Kid the same speech about his music not making sense to anyone but himself that the club owner in Purple Rain gave him. The Time rushes in with instruments instead of guns, despite the fact that Morris is still playing up like he’s a gangster or something. They then have a… what the hell am I even looking at? They get their respective keyboard players to sample each other’s voice and tease each other with the fact that they can make a musical instrument. Either I’ve missed the joke or they forgot to put it in. The audience at the club makes “oooh” sounds like something has been done, but I don’t see it. Oh and this cute girl in a leather jacket watches with the sort of embarrassed humiliation I feel watching it myself. Only she’s tinged with concern and I’m just tinged with bemusement. If I may add something, god DAMN does this movie take place in 1990. It is SOOO 1990 you can’t believe it. You remember what 1990 was like? That Fly Girls/New Jack City look was going on, it was like the 80s fashions were reaching some kind of weird climax. It was like the last days of the Roman Empire, only with more glitter. Things were completely out of control, pretension was at an all time high. There was hope though. The nuclear weapon of Grunge was still a few years away, which would blast all of that into oblivion, but think what would have happened had this cycle gone on just a few more years. Scary, huh?


Pimpin’ is easy when you have the right friends.

Morris and The Time sing “Release It”, which they do get to finish. The crowd at the club, which started off booing Morris ends up cheering him as he leaves. He then urinates on a plant before leaving, lighting said plant on fire as he goes. Again, it makes no sense. Why is he acting like some kind of tough guy? Morris Day is a musician, a musician with a great comic flair. He’s not a tough guy and he isn’t a gangster. What the hell is going on here and can I have another drink please? After that, Prince, I mean The Kid drives past the bridge which makes up the title, where the cute girl is sitting thinking “It’s just around the corner” to herself. Take a drink, this one’s on me. The Kid drives up, looks at her, she smiles and he drives off scowling. He then goes and writes the lyrics to “Elephants and Flowers” on the wall before curling up in the alley to sleep? Why? I don’t know, I’m about ready to stop asking questions. If this movie is to be watched at all, it should be watched with friends and an acceptable level of inebriation.


Wow, do you remember jeans so shredded people needed to wear spandex pants under them?

We then see George Clinton at a low point in his career, playing “We Can Funk” while the cute mystery girl watches with appreciation. Then we cut to The Kid who… what the hell is he wearing? He’s got his face all made up, he’s wearing what looks like a pied piper’s tunic, and he’s dancing like he wants to be Michael Jackson when he grows up. They play Elephants and Flowers, which cute mystery girl dislikes so much she turns away and vanishes in a puff of sound effect. Can we drink for the puff sound effect? No? Damn! I thought she’d written him off, but she reappears a moment later dressed all in black and tells the audience (and a pointless character called T.C.) her name is Aura. Morris must be right, because there is almost no one in the club, and people are even walking out. He’s just not packing them in like he used to, just like in a better movie that also starred Prince. The ones who are into it though are really into is, since it looks like an impromptu orgy is about to break out on the dance floor.


Look at him! LOOK!

Mystery Girl (Aura) hangs out under the bridge writing poetry while The Kid writes letters to his dead father. Then, for no good reason what-so-ever Tevin Campbell sings “Round and Round” to the street. This does nothing for the movie, not a single blessed thing. Tevin doesn’t have any lines besides this one scene, the song adds nothing but runtime, it makes no sense. A crowd builds up while he sings, but he’s just on the street singing to a VERY 1990 crowd. Sorry, I don’t mean to keep going on about this, but DAMN these people are like an example of everything Grunge and Gangster Rap was set out to destroy. Anyway, that ends and the next bit starts. Oh hey though, there are actually some exterior shots. Well, three short shots in one go really. A car driving down and alley, over a bridge, around a corner and then it’s back to the sets. And on that set? Cute mystery girl! And she’s voicing over more obtusely spiritual poetry. Morris and Jerome show up and try talking to her. This doesn’t turn out to be any fun either, because Morris and Jerome aren’t given any fun things to do. They make a valiant attempt, but it’s just not clicking. The Agenda is rolling all over the idea of the fun. Aura and Morris go to his club where they flirt or… something. I think she’s trying to seduce him to the light side of the force, while he’s just trying to get her into bed.


And just then, Jerome hit the remote for Morris’s anal tingler.

This leads them to singing “The Love Machine” in a very musical style where Morris is singing to Aura who sings back, despite the fact that it’s clearly the people on stage that are singing. Morris and Jerome sing to Aura, which produces one of the very few genuinely entertaining moments. It’s really interesting since they seem to insinuate that they intend to double time her once they get her home. Then we get “Thieves in the Temple”, which makes almost no sense in context. The song is clearly a break up tune, with some spiritual aspects, but he’s singing it before he an Aura have said a word to each other. Also, remember me saying he was dancing like he wanted to be Michael Jackson when he grew up? It’s not just the dancing. The whole style of this video is that of Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” video. Anyway, then The Kid kidnaps Aura from Morris’s clutches, which leads to a little bit of comedy via Morris and Jerome, but not enough. Then Aura has a dream sequence where she dreams about The Kid singing “Joy In Repetition” in a truncated version. She leaves him some lyrics on a piece of paper in the dream, which we’ll get to later. She wakes up and the two of them have a moment before she looks at his sheet music and starts to cry a little. I have no idea why the tears, because it seems he’s writing the sort of thing she’d like to hear, but there they are.


Wait, why a massive bottle of corn oil?

We’re then treated to another amusing scene with Morris and Jerome actually being amusing. Jerome Benton should have been in more movies, because he’s honestly the best thing in this movie. He’s elevates every scene he’s in. Not just this movie, but in all of Prince’s movies. By the way, the section of town this takes place in is called Seven Corners and of course it would be. You can get in some serious drinking if you pay attention, because the number seven is all over this movie. Morris and Jerome have what can only be called a money fight where they both throw out the money they have in their pocket on the table in front of them. They do this all to the tune of “Dueling Banjos” and it doesn’t last long enough. The few bits that really amuse are short and killed by ponderous scenes with The Kid and Aura being all obtuse and irritating. The requisite love scene is just thrown at us, with Aura just announcing she’s fallen in love and they presumably do it up against a wall but it’s PG-13 so who knows. Then we get them riding around on his motorcycle ala Purple Rain. They’re also actually outside for a whole seven seconds. Then they frolic about for a while, actually going outside again. I mention it because everything in this movie is just shot on sets. Obvious sets. Really obvious sets. Like deliberately obvious. I would guess he did mean it to be obvious, because it looks like an old 50’s musical, which I understand was part of the point.


Look at us, aren’t we frolicky?

Where was I? I forget, ah well, so did the movie. The Kid demands a battle of the bands between his crew and The Time. Morris agrees and then has The Time go smash up The Kid’s club and destroy their instruments. Again, why? Why send musicians to destroy the place? Why is he acting like a gangster, why try to make such an obvious comic talent into a menacing villain? Ah well, Morris’s sings the classic(?) Time song “Shake”, which we break from to see The Kid and the NPG walking towards the band all Wild Bunch style. Well, not really, because these guys have none of the gravitas of The Wild Bunch, but I think that’s what they were going for. Aaaanyway, they interrupt The Time song with some fireworks and then sing “Tick, Tick, Bang” which feels like it wants to be sung to Aura like he sang “Darling Nikki” to Apollonia in Purple Rain, but it doesn’t work. In fact, one has sympathy with The Time who look bored, exasperated, and in one case too interested in his game boy to notice. Then, at one point, Prince sits next to Jerome, who pulls a lollipop out of his pocket and Prince grabs it before he goes back to singing with his band. I actually have to stop the movie at that point just so I can tilt my head and go “What the fuh…” each and every time I see that. Why does it happen? What were they trying to say? When did that sound like a good idea? Why am I still watching? Can we have a drink now please? Anyway, the song ends, The Time is unimpressed and they go back in and you can hear them playing “The Latest Fashion”, even though it’s not actually in the movie.


You want some candy little boy?

Aura and The Kid go back to the bridge, where she gives him a framed poem. Only when he hands it to her in the next shot it’s clearly not that poem, but an autographed photo of someone. The poem was written on colored paper, the photo is an 8×10 black & white print. They discuss the need for The Kid not to give up and he drives back to the club only to find everyone has abandoned him. The Time is trying to pressure everyone to sign over their clubs, but that leads to Mavis Staples proving that she’s way better than this movie by singing the hell out of them with only her voice. She can’t really dance, she’s not got a sexy body, but good lord n’ butter she can sing the hell out of everyone else in the movie. She drives The Time off, but while they’re all busy listening to her sing, George signs off the club. Then Aura tells The Kid not to give up, right before she gets hit by a Jeep. Yeah, it sort of comes out of nowhere and nails her. Well, not completely out of nowhere since it’s sort of telegraphed so far that people on Mars could see it coming. Why does Prince always have to kill someone in his movies? This death was needless, as was the death of Christopher Tracy. It serves no purpose, and it just… why am I bothering? What do I think I’m going to get out of this? I haven’t even had the joy of getting hammered with a group of friends. I’m here, on my own, torturing myself with this crap. While sober no less. Barkeep, another Mekong please!


I feel a sneeze comin’ on. (Just be glad it’s not a sodomy joke.)

This then leads to The Kid and The NPG singing “Still Would Stand All Time” which starts with that whole “It’s just around the corner” thing that they’ve been giving us all this time. He sings this, while standing in front of an Olivia de Berardinis painting of a naked angel. This song breaks everyone up so bad that they tell Morris to just let him have the club and without even listening to The Time’s song, they just declare The Kid to be the winner. The power of music is supposed to have swayed Morris et all. And that’s just where it ends, with Morris shaking The Kid’s hand and the two of them hugging and everyone agreeing they won. Then there is a reprise of the New Power Generation song and with the credits half over, and the audience presumably long left, we finally hear the song “Graffiti Bridge” which still makes like… no sense, but whatever, it’s almost over now. One song we never actually hear is “Can’t Stop the Feeling I Got”, which is the very first song on the soundtrack album. So the first song on the soundtrack isn’t there, the song that carries the name of the movie won’t be heard by anyone, the movie’s point was missed by about fourteen billion light years and even Madonna turned down the movie on the grounds of it being too stupid. Just to remind you, she did Desperately Seeking Susan and didn’t complain about that being too dumb.


He had a sudden revelation from heaven that his pants were just too darn high.

Let’s be honest, this is a bad movie. While the basic plot isn’t too hard to get, a lot of this movie makes little to no sense. You also spend a lot of time looking at this movie and you can hear the clock ticking, just waiting for September 1991 to roll around so “Smells Like Teen Spirit” can explode on the radio and change everything. This is the first real sign of Prince’s decline, this is the start of the things that would test every Prince Fan’s metal. There isn’t much here sadly, not enough for you to really get your teeth into. It’s pretty hollow I’m afraid. Still most the music is pretty good, so you can listen to the album without too much trouble. Yeah, these are straws and I intend to grasp at them. It is a pretty solid album, just not enough to hang a movie on.


Dude, you got any twinkies?

What I find interesting though, above all, is how much of a zero score this movie has. It’s not so bad to have negative numbers, but it’s not good enough to have positive numbers. It’s well crafted in that the sound and cameras are working, but the movie was not worth making if you catch my drift. I’ve seen worse movies than this, and I’ve seen much better, but this is even at zero. That makes it rare, really. This movie is like a baseline, which is interesting. I’ve always avoided using numbers in my reviews because most the time I hate reading those reviews. People trash the movie and then because the camera and sound work are nice they end up giving a movie a 7.3 when a movie they seemed to like only got a 6.9 or something. No, I’ve always just tried to give you my feelings about the movie without going for numbers. WELL NO MORE! I’ve decided on a scoring system! From now on, we’ll go with how much better or worse a movie was than Graffiti Bridge. We’ll go by degrees of good or bad, judged by be, against this movie. It’ll be like the Celsius Scale, only Graffiti Bridge is the point where water freezes. Things better than Graffiti Bridge will have a positive number, any movie worse will have a negative number. It’ll be like the Celsius Scale, only Graffiti Bridge is the point where water freezes. From now on, we will have scores, but we’ll have my kind of scores. Now, let’s calibrate our scale…

Official Score: 0 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

NOW! If you’ll excuse me, I need to go have a couple of Good Ducks and maybe a few Good Fairies.

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*Psst, Bombay Company. Call me! I could totally increase your market share among the internet generation.

  1. Rudy M Alapag Jr says:

    i love Graffiti Bridge and also Prince’s music is so spiritual which i understand spiritual songs and the song: “Still Would Stand All Time” really make me feel sad for Prince and made me tear. i give this movie, this sequel a 10.10 great work Prince.

  2. ann says:

    I used to love Prince up to 1984. After Purple Rain he lost his frigging mind, and his music became very wierd. Now I look at him, and I laugh because he’s a has been joke. He need to go back to singing Do Me Baby and I wanna be your Lover b4 its too late.

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