Kevin Spacey is overrated. The man is a bona fide robot, his face permanently frozen in a blank stare, one which most of the time holds even when he’s sobbing, something he does pretty often. At this point in his career, he’s still famous for being that guy who eats produce, not because anyone actually saw or liked K-Pax but because the trailers were funny and memorable. What have you done for me lately Kevin? Not much. Beyond the Sea marks a real low point in the heralded Spacey career, and for me, finally erased any residual goodwill I might have been holding on to for him since American Beauty.
Directed by and starring Kevin Spacey, Beyond the Sea throws him into the role of long dead celebrity sensation Bobby Darin, which is weird since Bobby Darin died at the age of 36 while Spacey is 45 going on 60. Beyond the Sea dismisses the obvious age difference right from the outset, with a bizarre setup in which Kevin Spacey is supposed to be Bobby Darin as an older man playing himself as a younger man. I guess we’re supposed to assume he’s doing this from beyond the grave or in some inane Twilight Zone world, since throughout the film he’s haunted by a creepy looking child representing Darin as a youngster. If you can unravel exactly what’s going on in the film’s setup, please clue me in. Whatever they’re going for, the excuse doesn’t work and we’re still left with a film in which a man who looks like he’s 60 is attempting to play a 20 year old. It’s jarring and laughable, akin to seeing Peter Falk dressed up in Fubu, or having a young, vibrant Ray Charles played by modern day Bill Cosby. Kevin Spacey should have set his ego aside and given someone else this part.
Once the movie finishes apologizing for Spacey’s vanity, it becomes a full blown musical. It glosses over Darin’s early life with glib clip montages in which everything just sort of falls in place for him while he dances with large groups of street sweepers who leap and cavort in the middle of the street. Darin seems a lot like one of today’s manufactured stars, a guy who keeps getting good press and good breaks, though he’s not doing anything particularly special. In fact, Darin’s main goal in this film is to do whatever it is Sinatra is doing, the guy doesn’t have an original bone in his body. Darin quickly rises to musical stardom and then like Britney Spears dates famous people and transitions into making what I can only assume are horrible movies. The last time I saw a Bobby Darin film, I think I was five. However, if the dialogue he’s shown reciting in Beyond the Sea is any indicator of their quality, I’ll make it a point to stay away from them. How the man got nominated for an Oscar is a complete mystery to me.
As a biopic, it’s my hope that Beyond the Sea is wildly inaccurate. If it isn’t, then Bobby Darin was an egotistical, fame-hungry, talentless hack. He ripped off Sinatra and when that no longer sold he followed the crowd and started pretending he was a whiny hippy. According to Beyond the Sea, Darin was successful simply because his mother brainwashed him well enough that things magically fell into place for him. Invites on television, hit records, movie roles, all materialize with the wave of his hand and the out of place performance of yet another not exciting impromptu dance number.
Speaking of dance numbers, Beyond the Sea is exactly the type of musical I’ve feared re-emerging since the success of Chicago and Moulin Rouge. If those movies represent the best of what song and dance films have to offer, then Beyond the Sea embodies all about them that is worst. The dance breaks are uninspired and bland. Characters break into gleeful song at the most inopportune moments. They simply don’t fit. At best they’re laughable, at worst they’re unwatchable. The film would be bad even without all the singing, but with it Beyond the Sea qualifies as a legitimate form of lobotomization.
In a year filled with biopics, bad and good, Kevin Spacey has both directed and starred in the worst. The only thing he’s done that deserves any credit is managing to convincingly sing all of Bobby Darin’s songs himself. Then again, if Bobby Darin is so grand, you’d think Spacey would have wanted us to hear some of the man’s work. The music as it is seems fit only for elevators. Beyond the Sea embodies everything that is worst about movie musicals and Hollywood filmmaking. It’s a pretentious vanity project gone horribly awry in a confusing mess of bad images and easy successes from a terminally unlikable and uninteresting pop culture figure. Somewhere in the life of Bobby Darin there must be a good story. If there is, Beyond the Sea doesn’t find it.