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December 16th, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody: ****

Queen is the greatest rock band of all time.

Everybody knows Freddie Mercury. But Queen had four guys, each with a knack for writing songs that are immediately catchy and magically timeless.

Another One Bites the Dust (1980) is a disco song. Bassist John Deacon had just discovered American black music and you can hear it in his funk-inspired bass riff. Legend has it that the band didn’t know they even had a hit on their hands until Michael Jackson urged them to release it as a single. Two generations later, Dust doesn’t seem like a disco song anymore; it is a timeless rock masterpiece.

We Will Rock You (1977) is an anti-rock song. Brian May was an immensely talented guitarist. But for his greatest composition, he tossed his Red Special aside and wrote a song with almost no music. The lyrics are obscure and pessimistic; it’s an anti-protest song about the futility of youthful passion. But his stomp-stomp-clap is one of the most recognizable hooks in the history of music. We Will Rock You doesn’t seem like an anti-rock song anymore; it is a timeless rock masterpiece.

Bohemian Rhapsody (1975) is in a class by itself. There’s no sense trying to analyze it; the song is a piece of art that is as sublime and timeless as the Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling or Andy Warhol’s Campbells Soup Can. It takes vision and bravery to release a pop single with the lyrics: “Scaramouche Scaramouche, can you do the fandango?”

Rhapsody was a hit in 1975. It was a hit again in 1992 after “Wayne’s World.” It is playing every hour on SiriusXM Hits 1 right now.

It is great enough to make “Bohemian Rhapsody” a must-see blockbuster.

The band had four talented guys, but “Bohemian Rhapsody” is all about Queen’s famous front man.

Farrokh Bulsara was an ethnically Persian immigrant from Zanzibar. And he wasn’t particularly handsome. He was not an obvious choice to become one of Britain’s biggest stars. Legally changing his name to Freddie Mercury was a wise first step.

This is not a rags to riches story. Queen were not in rags for long. Killer Queen (1974) was a bonafide hit in the UK. And Bohemian Rhapsody made them a beloved rock band world wide.

Director Bryan Singer made some unorthodox choices. “Bohemian Rhapsody” has several factual errors and the events are presented wildly out of order. But that’s all for a good cause because the story is entertaining and fast-moving. The 135 minutes absolutely flies by.

How do you make a feel-good movie about a guy who died of AIDS? Bryan Singer found a way. He ends the film abruptly and triumphantly six years before Mercury died. There is nothing obvious about that decision and it works splendidly.

At first I was disappointed when I heard that the Queen movie was going to be PG-13 and it would gloss over Mercury’s hedonism and debauchery. But I was wrong. This is not a documentary; it is a family movie that celebrates music. Thanks to the PG-13 rating, a new generation of young people are discovering Queen.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” isn’t an artful film. If the music was mediocre, the movie wouldn’t be great. But the music IS great. Timelessly great.

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