Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
There are worse ideas out there than creating a film around an album, even if that album is widely considered the greatest ever recorded. At the very least, there's more available material than basing it on only one song (see Harper Valley P.T.A. for the dire results). Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, based on the Bealtes album, doesn't work. It makes a mockery of not only the album, but also the Beatles, the Beatles' fans, the fans of movie musicals and, well, everyone else.
There are so many problems it's hard to know where to start. First, not all of the songs from the album are in the film, and second, songs not on the album are in the film. So basically, they could've called it whatever they wanted and it wouldn't have made any difference.
The plot, such as it is, deals with Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees (as Billy Shears and his band) trying to save their town of Heartland while being seduced by the temptations of fame and fortune in the big city. This is the barest clothesline on which to hang the junkiest attempt to shoehorn songs into some sort of script. We have characters such as Mr. Kite (George Burns), Strawberry Fields, Mr. Mustard, Dr. Maxwell and Lucy and the Diamonds. The movie just randomly whipsaws from character to character as each get their 'big moment' when the inevitable song is trotted out and, in most cases, is completely eviscerated. Even worse than that, other songs and performances are just dumped in the middle of everything without reason or logic.
So what about those performances? They range from serviceable (Burns's "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite," "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds", and songs by Aerosmith and Billy Preston), to slavish clones (Frampton, the Bee-Gee's, and Sandy Farina do absolutely nothing to distinguish themselves from the originals, so why bother?), to desperately ill-advised (Steve Martin and the three songs sung by Mr. Mustard and his robots are so dreadful as to defy belief). And acting? What acting? It becomes pretty apparent that neither Frampton nor the Bee Gees could act their way out of a wet paper bag, so the script is entirely narrated by George Burns who also does voiceover dialogue for the flat foursome.
Even on a visual level, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is supremely tacky, with a riot of neon colors and tons of cardboard and crepe paper. It's hard to believe nobody looked at the shoddiness of the surroundings and realize something was very amiss. To be responsible for this set design is one thing, but actually taking credit for it is another.
For all of those people who piled on top of Julie Taymor's Beatles homage, Across the Universe, they should be forced to watch Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band while wearing A Clockwork Orange eye-clamps.