THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT - KB Cinema.
Who are the Who? Unfortunately, the makers of "The Kids Are Alright" can't explain. This documentary film about one of rock's most enduring and consistently top-notch groups never rises above TV rock special status. Although Who devotees will relish the showcase of the band's music, they will ultimately be frustrated by the movie's lack of continuity and depth.
The film starts brightly enough with endearing footage of the Who as insouciant young mods riding the crest of the British invasion. In foppish edwardian frills, they mug their way through early '60s television shows like the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and Shindig. Once they stop posturing and start playing, the unpolished power of the bank on early hits like "Talkin" 'bout My Generation," "Magic Bus" and "Can't Explain" is spelbinding.
As the band ages and becomes more polished, the power doesn't stop, but neither does the posutring. In subsequent clips, we never see what happens when the band steps off the magic bus. We are never taken beyond the power chords and instrument-smashing that made the Who notorious back when Carnaby Street first became a cultural movement. This is a pity, since Pete Townshend, Roger Daltry, John Entwhistle and the late Keith Moon produced some of the most intelligent rock music to date.
There is no backdrop of the mods-vs-rockers phenomenon that factionalized British working-class youth in the early '60s - so formative to the Who t at a later album, "Quadrophenia," is devoted to it. There is no attempt to follow the Who chronologically as they emerge from their leather-jacket cocoons into full-flame psychedelia at Woodstock with their rock oper masterpiece "Tommy".
In fact, if you hadn't seen the movie "Woodstock," you couldn't distinguish that live performance from the others shuffled together to make the full-length feature. There is no narration, no explanation, no context.
Perhaps it's not totally the filmmakers' fault. Unlike the Beatles and the Stones, the Who have never had a strong media persona. The Beatles were aptly portrayed as latter-day Keystone Cops in "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help." The Stones exude a demonic dark force throughout #Sympathy for the Devil" and "Gimme Shelter." But apart from their boisterous musicianship, the Who remain private personalties.
Even in the interview sequences, the Who don't give an inch. They just keep clowning. The only serious talk comes from lead guitarist and composer Pete Townshend, and he doesn't provide enough. Like the frustrated interviewer, we want to know what has made the Who one of the world's greatest rock'n'roll bands for over a decade. Perhaps the Who themselves can't explain. CAPTION: Picture, PETER TOWNSHEND, A "WHO" IN A MOD FROLIC ON A MAGIC BUS TO WHERE.