WIRTB Review: Prince, The Actor

By @SpeedontheBeat

Now, let it be known throughout the land that Purple Rain is one of my favorite films and its soundtrack album is one of the greatest albums of all-time. I also believe that Prince is one of the greatest artist of all time. However, how well does the film--or any Prince film, for that matter--hold up when you remove the hype of it being a Prince film and just look at it as a movie itself? For this edition of WIRTB Review, instead of just focusing on, as mentioned, Graffiti Bridge, we're going to focus on Prince's films overall. Through this, we will evaluate their pros and cons to determine whether or not Prince and his films were really as bad as The Razzies said they were.

The first thing--and really, the only thing--you've got to accept, when watching a Prince film, is this. Prince is always going to play Prince. No matter where you go, no matter what you do. Prince, in a movie, is always going to play himself, even if it's ever-so-slightly exaggerated. Put him in a mobster flick, he'd probably show up and pull out his guitar case all Trigun-style.

You could have him in a Captain EO reboot. Yes, we're going there. He'd still be playing Prince and would probably bust out the platinum and rhinestone-studded assless chaps and his flowy shirt from the "Alphabet Street" video.

He'd probably shoo the goofy-ass cast away to seduce The Supreme Ruler to orgasm her way to become beautiful and whatnot. He wouldn't even need The Power of Song. He'd already be glowing, because, well, Prince. On top of that, he could just pull out his Dick Guitar from Purple Rain and finish the job.

In case you haven't noticed, this is going to be a different type of WIRTB.

He'd then hit a "Purple Rain"/"Thieves in the Temple" blend as the credits roll because reasons. And all The Supreme Ruler could say, after her monumental beautiful orgasm, would be something along the lines of...

Broad City references aside (but seriously. Someone tell me how to interview Abbi and Ilana), if you accept that Prince isn't going to "act" in the traditional sense in any of his films, you'll have a good time. You'll be able to enjoy the flicks.


With that in mind, let's talk Purple Rain.

While Prince being Prince is great for a couple laughs (and/or potentially getting the ladies in the mood), it makes him a pretty bad actor. For instance, Prince is pretty incapable, it'd appear, of getting really pissed off. He'd seethe with anger, but you never, in the public eye, saw him just spaz out and break stuff. So, when you see Prince, in Purple Rain, angry, it seems real. But, it also seems awkward as hell.

For instance, the scene where he goes all "where are you, motherfucker," after his dad hit his mom.

It's a poignant scene. The Kid is close to his mother and doesn't want to see either one of his folks jacked up. I'd be pissed. You'd be pissed. Any rational human being would be pissed and want to retailiate against their father. However, Clarence Williams III as Papa Kid completely overshadows anything Prince could do dramatically. On top of that, the "fight" between the two comes off as Empire-levels of head-scratchingly awful.

Even the scene where he after hearing about her team up with Morris, slaps Apollonia, it feels incredibly forced.

Now, I'm not an advocate of domestic violence. However, if you're going to include a "sins of my father" scene in this sort of film, make it have more repercussions. Make it feel "real," and have us hate The Kid. This slap, it kind of feels like, if she wanted to, Apollonia could retaliate and leave Prince all rekt-like. I don't want to joke about it, but it feels like no one could take a slap/punch in this flick.

But, all in all, Purple Rain is...an alright movie. It's laughably bad at a lot of points and should be watched as, in some ways, a dark comedy versus a straight-up "Making the Legend" biopic (a la Get on Up). It's disturbingly awkward in having The Kid be the "hero" even though he's just as much of a D-Bag as Morris or Papa Kid. For instance, the whole "Purify Yourself" scene. Although Young SOTB got to see Apollonia's boobage, the scene was weird as balls.

However, if you watch it as a dark comedy and accept Prince as your personal lord and savior will just be playing a slightly cartoonish (if that's possible) version of himself, you'll have a decent time. It's a movie that proves that Prince is friggin' Prince. What does that mean? Oh, just a little something along the lines of "he can do whatever the crap he wants and it'll still have some amazing redeeming qualities."


With the lighter Under the Cherry Moon, we don't have to deal with Prince slapping people or getting slapped around or yelling about his father/girlfriend/band mates/whoever. It's also a PG-13 film. So, we also don't get to see much in the way of T&A. However, let's look at it anyway.

Cherry Moon was a wonky flick, one so wonky that a lot of Prince fans disavow its existence. One of the rumored reasons as to why we never got Prince on The Simpsons is because, in the draft of the script, there was a Cherry Moon joke. Even today, people wonder how to take it. All in all, it's a pretty polarizing project.

But...was it really that bad?


"Bad" isn't really the word to describe it.

Instead, I'd like to call it how I see it. I apologize to Prince. May he rest in power. However, Under the Cherry Moon is bonkers. Imagine the premise of Six Degrees of Separation, except Prince and Jerome Benton are straight and don't have AIDS. Add in some Mr. Deeds (the Adam Sandler one) shenanigans in there being a ton of money at stake. Stuff it full of Prince being funny and bouncing pretty well off of Benton's Tricky. I mean, "WRECKA STOW."

Glaze this crazy thang with some romantic overtones (I say overtones because Christopher Tracy and the rich chick, Mary, don't ever really seem to have much chemistry). Then, and only then, do you put this bad boy in the blender at set it for "Baby, I'm a Star!" and toss a couple 151 shots in for good measure.

And that still doesn't describe this thing. It's a film that, like Purple Rain, hinges on Prince being Prince and just not giving any sorts of damns about convention. You put anyone else in this movie and you've got something that's borderline incomprehensible.

On top of that, Prince, being, ya know, Prince, he decided to take over and actually direct the film himself. The film is beautiful in that it forces viewers to evaluate the setting, the scene, the characters and determine "does any of this really belong here?" However, unlike Purple Rain, the soundtrack, Parade, plays better without the movie.

The film often screams at Prince "please sir, may I sang mah songs?" However, potentially to keep up with the strangeness of it all, he denies a lot of the musical moments. Either that or he uses beautiful songs to underlie some pretty dead moments.

Again, it's a crazy-ass movie. That's really all I can say about it. It knows what it is (crazy) and runs gleefully throughout its modern day, black-and-white world with scissors. It embraces its "WTF" factor and doesn't even care to, you know, give anyone what they really "want." By the end of the film, you kind of still get what you need: some laughs and a good brain bleaching.

Now...Graffiti Bridge. Sigh. Graffiti Bridge. Ummm...where do I start? It's, obviously, my least-favorite Prince film. But, let's talk about it.

So, you remember Morris from Purple Rain (how could you forget him? He was one of the shining moments of the film)? So, six, seven years later, he's a big(ger)-time bawse and he, like all bawses, wants his money and wants it now. Prince, as The Kid, now manages a club (no, not the same one from Purple Rain) called the Glam Slam. Morris and The Kid go all Pluto Nash and battle over the ownership of the club, almost on some straight-out-of-the-comics Good versus Evil shit.

That's before you add in a romantic lead that's kind of a pale imitation of Apollonia's dynamic, dance battles, George Clinton, Tevin Campbell, and a LOT MORE religious overtones in a film of this nature. Let's say this: it ain't Purple Rain. As Prince himself said "it's not violent. Nobody gets laid." It's a different film from its predecessors. It's, in some ways, his Moonwalker.

It's also, like Under the Cherry Moon, bonkers in that it's self-referential as hell.

Prince seemingly knows he's on some other shit and is afraid of the change that's coming. He wants to retreat to his studio, crank out some new jams, and pray folks are receptive. However, in some ways, he doesn't care, even as characters in the movie just look at him with the "Saitama 'OK'" face. The film is more about Prince not knowing what to do in the early 1990s as an artist than it is about his battles with Morris.

So, in summary, it's a movie that features Tevin Campbell singing but is, on a deeper, less kooky level, a film dealing with Prince's anxiety about the newer waves. It's a beautiful, albeit sad, film if you look at it like that. But, overall? Ehhhh...the film isn't that good. It tries way too hard, either with its religious overtones or its screaming of "hey, look at me. I'm Prince. I'm still bad AF!"

At the end of the day, are Prince the actor and his films that bad? No. Sure, he couldn't act his way out of a wet bag and these flicks vary in quality. But, there's still something magnetic about his performances in these films. Are the soundtracks infinitely better than the movies they're attached to?

But...I've got to rule that, while they're laughable bad at times, nah. Prince films aren't that bad, if you know how to watch them. If you don't watch them as completely serious films (and know you're watching Prince be Prince) with some, usually, badass performances, you'll be fine. If you're expecting the greatest movies ever made with the greatest actors to grace the screen, just exit stage left.

Until next time.

-Speed on the Beat


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