Cinematic Releases: CBGB

What could have been an epic tale of the glory days of punk rock is sadly a paint by numbers exercise that fails under a weak script and rushed introductions to the biggest bands of the era. From the trailer it was easy to see that CBGB was not going to satisfy the tastes of music aficionados and would most likely be a tasteless grab at trying to cash in on the nostalgia of the punk rock era. CBGB is just that. It's an unfocused and heartless film that never develops characters but instead plateaus early on with no dramatic movement whatsoever.

Although the scripting is weak and the picture is rather dull, the casting of the featured bands is near spot on. We get to see a youthful Ramones, The Talking Heads, The Police, Blondie, Iggy Pop and many more all in the early stages of their musical careers. Most of the stage representations are pretty believable despite Malin Akerman's terrible job at lip synching to classic Blondie songs. Had the director chosen live versions instead of studio tracks, it would have made all the performances much more believable. The Ramones look exactly like the Ramones. Relative unknown Jared Carter is the spitting image of David Byrne. But one of my favorites was seeing Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins as punk idol Iggy Pop. Although his acting could use some work, he's only there for a couple minutes and he looks the part.

Any time an era specific movie like this is made, there are deep flaws. With CBGB, the story is too compressed making the short  run time a definite issue. If they had added an extra half hour and had concentrated more on building a better foundation based on characters the audience could associate with, CBGB could have been a much stronger film. As a viewer, it was hard to connect with anyone in the movie because we never get much of a back story and all the characters are extremely one dimensional. If they had cut down on the nostalgia factor by not squeezing in so many bands, they could have used that much needed time to add to the story and in turn would have given us a much more solid piece of history. Even though that might have eliminated some of the interest in the film, it might have been the answer.

Being a huge fan of this era of music, it's hard to give CBGB a negative review. There are some positives too. The soundtrack is great. Alan Rickman offers his usual excellence. All the extended cameos are fun. But sadly, CBGB suffers the same fate as so many of these walks down memory lane. It just doesn't capture the spirit of the era and isn't punk rock enough. CBGB is extremely reminiscent of the 2009 film, Taking Woodstock. It's a big idea that fails under the weight of a legendary time in music history. Some things are better not revisited.

CBGB is now available On Demand for DirecTV subscribers and will be released in theaters Oct. 11.

-Review by Chris George