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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Beastie Boys Story is a 2020 documentary about the life and times of one of the most iconic musical acts of the last 40 years. The story is told by members Mike D. (Michael Diamond) and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) in front of an audience in Brooklyn's Kings Theater. There's profanity throughout, including "f--k" and "motherf---er." There's an old photo of Rick Rubin holding a magazine opened to a centerfold of a nude woman. Photos and video footage show Beastie Boys as teenagers and in the midst of their "Fight for Your Right to Party" days -- drinking and partying while underage. There's also talk of some of the drug use of band members over the years, but all of this is placed in the context of both regret over how their obnoxious behavior came to define them in the mid-1980s, and how much the group grew up personally and artistically over the course of their careers. Horovitz also addresses and expresses remorse over the sexism of the song "Girls," and how a lot of the male members of their '80s audiences took their lyrics more seriously than the Beastie Boys did. For the aspiring musicians in the family, this documentary does an excellent job of showing the creative processes behind many of Beastie Boys' best-known songs, and the amount of work that goes into becoming and staying successful in the music industry.
What's the story?
In BEASTIE BOYS STORY, Beastie Boys members Mike D. (Michael Diamond) and Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) tell the story of the ups and downs of one of the most iconic musical acts of the last 40 years. Diamond and Horovitz reflect on their meteoric rise from their beginnings as goofy New York City punk rock and hip-hop-obsessed teenagers and their meteoric rise to fame as their debut album, License to Ill, became one of the fastest selling albums of all time. They talk about the perils of their success at such a young age, and how they struggled to outgrow their public image as obnoxious hedonists. As they explain their reinvention as a creative force in the 1990s with such classic albums as Check Your Head and Ill Communication, and classic songs like "Sabotage" and "So What'Cha Want," Diamond and Horovitz pay their respects to Adam Yauch (MCA), the third member of Beastie Boys, who died of cancer in 2012.
Is it any good?
As much as anything else, this is a movie about best friendship, growing up in public, and the love of music. It's presented as a kind of Ted Talk in front of a live audience, only instead of some turtlenecked technocrat waxing philosophical about world problems while over-gesticulating their hands, it's Mike D. and Ad-Rock reflecting from their middle-aged vantage points on the highs and lows of their careers. Like Beastie Boys themselves, this documentary is often hilarious, and this overview is remarkably comprehensive, considering the vast evolution that happened collectively and individually over the course of their existence.
Unsurprisingly, Diamond and Horovitz devote considerable time to the role the late Adam Yauch (MCA) played in the band, and through their stories, Yauch comes across as a creative force, enigma, and someone with a profound love of life and adventure, whether it be venturing into a near-empty punk club to see Bad Brains as a teenager, or in meeting the Dalai Lama and becoming a champion for Tibetan independence later in life. For aspiring musicians, Beastie Boys Story is also an inspiring glimpse into the creative process of Beastie Boys, and how they found ways to incorporate their myriad musical influences into their own sound.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about music documentaries. How does Beastie Boys Story is compare to other music documentaries you've seen?
How does the movie address how it's easy for celebrities, especially younger celebrities, to turn into self-parodies? How did Beastie Boys escape this trap that initially brought them great success?
What does the movie show about the band's creative process and how that process evolved over the years?
- On DVD or streaming: April 24, 2020
- Cast: Adam Horovitz, Mike D., Adam Yauch
- Director: Spike Jonze
- Studio: Apple TV+
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Activism, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Music and Sing-Along
- Character strengths: Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: April 30, 2020
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