Even the best jokes are rarely as funny the second time around, and sadly Eric Idle’s follow-up to the 1978 Beatles parody is no exception. After sitting on the shelf at Warners and limited fest play, made-for finds a public aud three years after completion. While it hasn’t exactly been worth the wait, there are enough moments here to the warrant interest of both Rutles and Beatles fans alike.
Idle sets out to repeat the same format that made the original pic a cult success, by mixing newly shot celebrity interviews with outtakes and original footage from the previous film. “All You Need Is Cash” featured ex-Bonzo Dog Band musician Neil Innes and Idle spoofing Lennon and McCartney in a witty and affectionate sideways glance at the Beatles, their personalities and songwriting.
A significant portion of first pic’s enduring legacy can be attributed to Innes, who crafted an accomplished songbook that still stands up today, unparalleled as an amusingly clever mop-top tribute. Pic was an eerily accurate spoof of the “Beatles Anthology” series that didn’t appear until 18 years later.
But without any new participation from Innes, the majority of the sequel’s jokes rotate around Idle’s host character. Idle compensates by relying more heavily on the faux reminisces of his special guests, which work best when using vet comedians and musicians who would have been contemporaries of the Rutles. Interviews run the gamut from hilarious (Billy Connolly); forced (Carrie Fisher) to surreal (Salman Rushdie).
Highlights predictably include the comics: Garry Shandling (discussing the Rutles films: “Sorry, I have ‘A Hard Day’s Rut’ confused with ‘Schindler’s List.’ “), Robin Williams and Steve Martin. Tom Hanks and helmer Mike Nichols are clearly game, too.
DVD includes an alternative ending and 30 minutes of outtakes that demonstrate the vet interviewees have a firmer grasp than the filmmakers on what made the Rutles concept so funny. David Bowie and Rushdie in particular have their best moments left on the cutting room floor.
Efforts to draw in a contempo aud by involving modern talents like Jimmy Fallon, Conan O’Brien and Jewel frequently provide the least funny cameos. Other missteps include Idle’s heavy reliance on toilet humor at the expense of gently ribbing the Beatles legacy.
Production values are standard for a low-budget, digital video pic, but fall significantly on location shooting.