The cinematic equivalent of a concert T-shirt, XXL biodocu “Pearl Jam Twenty” gives another awesome souvenir to die-hard fans of the chart-topping Seattle scenesters-turned-cult faves while leaving others to wish there were anything like a thesis in former rock-journo Cameron Crowe’s two-hour puff piece. Finding a pulse only in the band’s late-reel performance of “Alive,” a lusty passage that would’ve begun a pic intent on making a case for the group’s greatness, “Twenty” simply counts the years from 1991 via sludgy backstage and onstage footage whose rarity can’t forgive its inclusion. Crowe’s critic mentor, the late Lester Bangs, would cringe.
That the pic’s multiplatform release includes special-event screenings on Sept. 20, followed closely by select-market runs, VOD availability and a PBS broadcast, means there’s no time for Crowe to re-edit, were he so inclined. As it is, the lead-burying docu has the director introducing himself as a fan-boy scribe who heard majesty in the din emanating from Seattle circa 1985. Copious shots of the city’s bridges fail to set the scene, while the early PJ’s likeness to the parodically rendered headbangers of Crowe’s semi-autobiographical feature “Almost Famous” hardly help.