Magical Mystery Tour offers proof (if such is needed) that genius does not always transfer between media. The Beatles were clearly a major force to be reckoned with in the field of pop music -- and when guided by someone such as director Richard Lester, they proved they could be powerful screen presences, as well. Unfortunately, Magical Mystery Tour is guided not by Lester, but the boys, themselves; and the result -- songs aside -- is a shambles. Too cloying and precious when it wants to be whimsical, and too pretentious when it wants to be meaningful, Tour is self-indulgent, amateurish, and tiresome -- sometimes painfully so, as in the Victor Spinetti sequence or the moments involving the four magicians. Although there are a few attractive visual moments (such as shots of Paul McCartney during "The Fool on the Hill" and the colors employed in "Your Mother Should Know"), the visuals are dull most of the time. "I Am the Walrus" isn't dull, but its use of masks and costumes is misguided; that it does achieve a certain effectiveness is due to the expert editing -- and in spite of the concept that is grafted onto the song. The film isn't a total loss, but this is due to the music. The Beatles couldn't write a bad song if they tried (although "Your Mother Should Know" comes perilously close), so Tour gets by on the strength of its score. Still, listening to the album is a better way to enjoy it.
by Craig Butler review