“Yesterday” offers up the year’s most appealing and lighthearted cinematic premise.
Jack Malik, a struggling singer-songwriter in a backwater English town, is struck by a bus, and after he wakes up in the hospital, he slowly realizes that somehow the iconic music of the Beatles has been expunged from the planet.
An internet search for the Beatles only brings up beetles. A search for John, Paul, George and Ringo calls up Pope John Paul II.
On the verge of quitting music, Jack instead decides to try out some of the most iconic songs in music history, and see if they’ll work as well for him as they did for the now-extinct Fab Four.
The film, directed by Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”), doesn’t entirely live up to its premise, as the script from Richard Curtis (“Love Actually”) slips toward familiar romantic comedy tropes in the latter going, but the overall effect is fun, and the actors are appealing.
British TV star Himesh Patel — no relation to Dev Patel, who Boyle made into a star with “Slumdog Millionaire” — turns in a charismatic performance as Jack, and provides several catchy versions of classic tunes.
His Jack is reluctant to claim the Beatles’ works as his own, but the temptations of fame and fortune are great, and heck, doesn’t the world deserve to hear “Eleanor Rigby?”
The character, though, is clearly thick-headed about the mutual attraction between himself and Ellie, his long-time friend and manager (played with typical effervescence by Lily James), and would-be love interest.
“Saturday Night Live’s” Kate McKinnon adds several good laughs as a greedy music executive who latches on to the newly discovered musical genius. Real pop star Ed Sheeran is a little awkward but also appealing as himself, who helps Jack get his big break, then is quickly overshadowed in the musical world.
“Yesterday” is a whimsical, lightweight comedy, that serves as a love letter to the Beatles. It probably could have been more, but that doesn’t make it a failure.
Rental Recommendation: How about something by the real Beatles? “Yellow Submarine” is an oddball animated film that was probably ahead of its time. Grade: B
Email Steve Ouellette at: email@example.com
Starring: Lily James, Himesh Patel, Kate McKinnon
Rated: PG-13 (for suggestive content and language)
Running time: 112 minutes