So What'Cha Want: Beastie Boys Story (2020) - Reviewed

The tale of the Beastie Boys' rise from meager beginnings to legendary iconic musical magicians sees the light of day in an Apple TV release this weekend. 

Officially hanging up their mics after the death of Adam Yauch in 2012, the new documentary explores their genius, the motivations, and their lingering grief over the loss of their leader. Numerous times the two mention that Yauch was the positive force that kept them coming back to the fray, even as the band nearly dissolved after touring incessantly for the 1986 album, Licensed To Ill. Capturing their personalities in a mostly endearing light, we see their mild embarrassment and anger over their first album, their overt frustrations with Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons manipulations, their personal struggles with the party lifestyle, and the ingenuity that brought them back to the light. 

Starting from their punk roots, to the hip hop heyday to their own mid-career creative revolution and revitalization, their teleprompted journey is taken to the stage in a multimedia blitz that runs for a nearly 120 minute history lesson. Tracing their meteoric rise from being fun seeking teenage kids to their global takeover, the Beastie Boys Story is an interesting take on the rock and roll documentary formula that's directed by their longtime friend, Spike Jonze. Where most fans of the band will love most of the details, the overall finished project is entertaining if not mildly stilted by an Adam Horowitz and Mike D. that seem almost out of character or not fully invested in their own story at times. 

Using the stage to deliver their tale through the use of cut footage, stage performances, and photos, it almost begs to be a standard documentary that should have used a traditional voice over narrative. There's something unnatural about the delivery system used here. As there are minor technical issues in the presentation, the Beastie Boys Story is definitely interesting enough but the natural flow is often times hindered by a strange disconnect and no real details about Yauch's early demise from salivary gland cancer at the age of 47. They don't do any deep dive into his cause of death, which anyone can find on Google. But, a few more details about his struggle would have humanized how real the battle is and might have connected more with their captive audience. 

For fans of the band, this is a must see, even if there are some flaws in its overall presentation. 11 years after their final show, you can tell these two want nothing more than to be back on stage with their missing friend. They say they'd never do it. There's no Beasties without Yauch. Both stand firm on that.  The energy between Horowitz and Diamond is still palpable. You can see the dynamic just brimming at the surface. Throughout the stage performance, you can tell they both just want to break free of the confines of this biography and bust into some rambunctious performance of one of their classic songs. But they won't. And they won't ever again. Out of respect for their fallen brother in music, they understand that they were all part of some perfect puzzle, some weird place in time. When one piece is removed, the whole thing would fail. 

Growing up with the Beasties, this is a return to better days for many of us. We feel like we know them. Seeing these two together again is bitter sweet. It makes us long for better days when creativity was relished and the music world was seeing an awakening. This is a definite suggested viewing for music historians and those of us that revel in pop culture. Kick it. 

-Chris George