By 1968, the bickering Beatles were in no mood to cavort for the cameras in another madcap romp a la A HARD DAY'S NIGHT or HELP! But because they had yet to fulfill their film contract with United Artists, a compromise was reached in which the group would "star" in an animated feature loosely based on "Yellow Submarine," their hit song from 1966. John, Paul, George, and Ringo more or less distanced themselves from the production, their contributions consisting of four new songs and a live cameo appearance at the end of the film. Yet somehow YELLOW SUBMARINE felt like a Beatles film in 1968, in that it had their stamp of approval and celebrated all things musical and psychedelic that the band represented at the time. The film is colorful, trippy, and imaginative, although the artwork and overall conception were more impressive than the limited animation. As much as anything else, YELLOW SUBMARINE has weathered the years well because of its dry and cheeky wit. The Beatles' animated counterparts were enjoyable, but the Chief Blue Meanie and Jeremy Hilary Boob are the characters everyone remembers. ½ - JL
YELLOW SUBMARINE is a dated piece of silliness that portrayed the Beatles as four far-out groovy pals even as they were coming apart in real life, but it is still a classic for its humor, wide-ranging animation styles and, above all, its music. Done on a relatively low budget, the film is as much a of an animated masterpiece as a dated piece of silliness can be. A kind of FANTASIA meets Porky in Wackyland meets Sgt. Pepper, YELLOW SUBMARINE captures many of the positive aspects of the whole Flower Power/Summer of Love/Hippy era while happily ignoring such negatives as widespread drug abuse and lack of personal hygiene, and the script features some of the most excruciatingly awful puns in any film since the Marx Brothers retired ("University of Whales", Frankenstein's sister Phyllis Stein, etc.) Although the Beatles themselves do not provide their own voices, the actors behind the animated Fab Four are all good, and you'll get used to them within minutes. "Ringo" and "Paul" are excellent, "John" sounds nothing like John but is fine anyway, and, thankfully, "George" is not Scottish as he was in the television Beatles cartoon.
The film is even better now that all the songs have been remixed from the original tapes (if you haven't done so already, buy the Yellow Submarine Songtrack). This is a film that you need to listen with high quality speakers or headphones. Just to hear a double-tracked John Lennon coming from both left and right on "Nowhere Man" (as opposed to the annoying "voices on one side, instruments on the other" mix) or the lush string quartet now surrounding Paul McCartney's voice on "Eleanor Rigby" makes you long for the complete remix of their entire back catalogue. - JB
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