[box cover]

Graffiti Bridge

No matter how much one enjoys 1984's Purple Rain, it is not a film that should be called great cinema. In fact, as a movie, it's mostly passable. The true appeal lies in Prince's extended musical numbers from the soundtrack album — an album that arguably is Prince's best (though this critic prefers Dirty Mind), and inarguably his most successful. For 1990's Graffiti Bridge (after 1986's Under the Cherry Moon, which not only flopped but got scathing reviews), Prince returned to Purple Rain territory by making a sequel to that unexpected blockbuster. And not only did he direct it, Prince Rogers Nelson wrote the screenplay and composed the majority of the music — which is not all that surprising considering Prince used to play all the instruments on his early albums. Unfortunately, it isn't a good movie (which was pretty much a given), and the soundtrack album is rather bland. The true failing of the picture is not that it's shot like an extended music video (with acting comparable to most mid-'80s music videos), or that the dramaturgy is insipid. It's that nothing on the soundtrack (outside of one number) sounds like we can sing along with it. The Kid (Prince) is a struggling club owner who finds himself challenged by Morris (Morris Day), a singer who terrorizes his club and threatens to take it over because The Kid's music can't seem to find its audience (and this time, that's not as hard to believe). Enter the ethereal presence of Aura (Ingrid Chavez, who thankfully never acted again), who romances both The Kid and Morris. As the tensions between Morris and The Kid heat up, The Kid struggles with his artistic output and tries to keep his club from Morris's scheming clutches… and that's pretty much the whole film. There's not a lot of plot, though the movie benefits most from the sharp comic timing of Morris Day, who mostly plays off Jerome Benton (his sidekick in Purple Rain, who became Prince's sidekick in Cherry Moon). Prince does have a knack for working with great cinematographers — here it's Bill Butler (Jaws), but musically only "Thieves in the Temple" is a great pop tune — which may be why, when it's heard in the film, it accompanies a pseudo-music video sequence. As a director, Prince's ability seems to have dipped from Cherry Moon, though that may be because Bridge was shot in his Paisley Park production complex, including almost all of the exteriors, and the set-bound nature of the film heightens its music-video sensibilities. The picture doesn't even have the camp appeal of Cherry Moon. However, talents like George Clinton, Marvis Staples, and Tevin Campbell do their best to provide some reasonable tunes, while The Time also return, and their "Release it!" and Shake" isn't so bad — but neither one is "Jungle Love." Warner presents Graffiti Bridge in anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 2.0 Surround (the lack of a DD 5.1 remix seems like a missed opportunity). Extras consist of the theatrical trailer and music videos for "New Power Generation," "The Question of U," "Thieves in the Temple," and Tevin Campbell's "Round and Round." Keep-case.

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