Purple Rain Movie Review

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Truth be told, Purple Rain isn't much of a movie, but it's one hell of a show. Just try to take your eyes off the 25-year-old Prince as he flaunts his unmatchable musical talent and raw sex appeal, blasting his way through the best soundtrack of the '80s. Fast forward through the talking bits, and you've got one of the best concert DVDs ever filmed.

The story, such as it is, centers around The Kid (Prince), a misunderstood sensitive artist type who, given his questionable wardrobe choices, probably got beaten up a lot in high school. Now he hides in the basement of his parents' house while evil Dad takes drunken swings at saintly Mom. When the tension is too much to bear, he chooses from his vast collection of leather and lace, pulls together a fetching and effeminate purple ensemble, hops on his kick-ass purple motorcycle, and heads to downtown Minneapolis, where he and his band are rising stars in the frenetic Twin Cities club scene.

Not that his band likes him much. He's sullen and prone to bitchy asides, and his control-freakishness is legendary. No one can tell him what to do when it comes to the music. He's the genius in charge, and it's clear the only reason the band tolerates him is because they know he has something truly special going on.

Into this mix arrives the buxom Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero), who thinks that Minneapolis, as opposed to, say, New York or L.A., is the place to come to make it big in showbiz. The Kid is smitten, and his courting rituals, including the classic scene where he forces her to strip and "purify herself in Lake Minnetonka," are hilarious, proving that underneath all that scowling, Prince really does have a sense of humor. And when he takes her back to the leather and lace bedroom... wow.

But after rubbing Apollonia the right way, The Kid and his uptight attitude start rubbing her the wrong way, and she's swept away by the funny and scene-stealing Morris Day (himself), the other big fish in this small Minneapolis pond. Though he fails to lure her to his bedroom ("I have a big brass bed... it's so exciting."), he sets her up with her own girl group (don't miss her tawdry "Sex Shooter" number) while keeping busy with his own band, The Time. His performance of "Jungle Love," in which he prances around and mugs with his manservant Jerome is one of the movie's many musical highlights.

So The Kid has lost the girl, his parents are beating each other up, and now the club manager is getting increasingly annoyed by the excesses of some of his more avant garde numbers. Out of pure spite, The Kid responds by giving the club audience a taste of "Darling Nikki," surely one of the most erotic/obscene performances ever committed to film. Watch Prince sing, play the guitar, and hump the stage all at the same time. And in high heels, no less.

The final concert blowout, featuring songs like "I Would Die 4 U," "Baby I'm a Star," and, of course, "Purple Rain," is pure excitement. In those final minutes, everything else in the movie -- The Kid's fears of turning into his father, his sudden understanding of his father's demons, his relationship with Apollonia -- falls by the wayside.

What's left is the music and the energy, a thrilling peak performance that Prince, for all his hard work, has never surpassed in 20 years of trying. And no one else has, either. Even Eminem, whose grim 8 Mile follows the same narrative path, would have to admit that Purple Rain is a hell of a lot more fun to watch. Get your Dolby settings straight, crank up your speakers, and party like it's 1984.

The new DVD offers a pile of extras -- two discs, in fact -- with director/producer/cinematographer commentary, a visit to Prince's early-career stomping grounds, behind the scenes documentaries and retrospectives, plus eight various Prince videos.

Cravat for milady?

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Purple Rain Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 1984

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