Review by Sean Boelman
A treat for any fans of the influential ‘90s hip-hop group, Beastie Boys Story is a new “live documentary” directed by acclaimed filmmaker and frequent Beastie Boys music video collaborator Spike Jonze (Her). An intimate and in-depth account of the group’s rise to fame and success, this is a viewing experience that is equal parts entertaining and emotional.
The movie is a recording of a multimedia performance put on by surviving Beastie Boys members Adam Horovitz and Mike D, in which they recount their story for a live audience and the cameras. As is the case with many performance films, the main appeal of Beastie Boys Story is that it gives viewers a front-row ticket to a live event that they couldn’t experience for one reason or another.
The pacing of the movie is largely dictated by the pacing of Horovitz and Mike D’s performance, and thankfully, they have a strong enough stage presence to carry the two-hour runtime. Jonze does add some cinematic flourishes, like a brief introduction that sets the stage for what we are about to see, but for the most part, he allows the Beastie Boys to tell their own story.
Horovitz and Mike D simply command the stage from the second they walk on to the moment they bow. Their rags-to-riches story isn’t too dissimilar from ones that have been documented in film before, but Horovitz and Mike D prove with this movie that they are not only great musicians, but also great performers, able to be absolutely captivating as storytellers as well.
But above everything else, this is a beautiful love letter to friendship. Yes, Horovitz and Mike D are telling the story of how they became one of the most iconic hip-hop groups in all of music history, but this is also the story of three friends from New York that got together to do something they loved. The film is a loving tribute to the third member of the group, Adam Yauch, who tragically lost his fight with cancer in 2012.
For a recorded performance, the movie is definitely very cinematic thanks to Spike Jonze’s prowess behind the camera. While the IMAX release that was initially planned for the film before the closure of theaters may not have been entirely necessary, the camera takes a very dynamic approach to the stage and makes the viewer feel as if they were actually watching this show at the Kings Theater in Brooklyn.
That said, the thing about the movie that may disappoint fans is that it doesn’t heavily utilize the group’s music. Yes, clips from their songs and music videos do make an appearance, but often only as a bridge between sections of the speech. The only sequences that are reliant on music are the introduction and the credits, both additions for Jonze’s film.
Beastie Boys Story may not be the definitive Beastie Boys documentary, but it offers a nostalgia-packed trip down memory lane for both audiences and the performers. It isn’t the most urgent viewing, but it’s a pleasant and immersive watch, particularly for those who grew up listening to the group’s music.
Beastie Boys Story debuts on Apple TV+ on April 24.