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With: Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, David Anderle, Hal Blaine, Jeff Bridges, Elvis Costello, Roger Daltrey, Natalie Imbruglia, Carol Kaye, George Martin, Paul McCartney, Michael Vosse
Written by: n/a
Directed by: David Leaf
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 240
Date: 04/30/2005

Brian Wilson's SMiLE: The DVD (2005)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Good Vibrations

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Once upon a time, the Beach Boys were an amusing pop group with jaunty, sing-a-long radio songs. But then their leader, Brian Wilson, decided that something more was possible, and so created the album Pet Sounds (1966), a complex symphony-like masterpiece full of criss-crossing, stunningly complimentary sounds and soul-searching beauty.

At the same time, the Beatles were also experimenting with the possibilities of pop records, and each group spurred the other to greater heights. After the Beatles responded to Pet Sounds with Revolver, Brian Wilson vowed to achieve the ultimate record with SMiLE.

Of course, SMiLE was never finished. It has become something of a legend among unreleased works. Bootleg tapes and CDs have changed hands for years, and generations of fans have speculated as to what the finished album might have sounded like. Wilson went through a very tough time, succumbing to all kinds of personal problems relating to drugs, depression and bad company. In 1995, he remarried and his new wife set him on the road to recovery. At the same time, a feature documentary, I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, told Wilson's life story to a new generation of fans. Finally, in 2004, Wilson completed SMiLE for a London concert and followed it with an official CD release. It's every bit the masterpiece that it always should have been.

Now Rhino has released a two-disc DVD companion piece. Disc One begins with the feature length documentary Beautiful Dreamer, which interviews Wilson and SMiLE lyricist Van Dyke Parks as well as Elvis Costello, Jeff Bridges, Rob Reiner and Roger Daltry. Beautiful Dreamer is a fine effort, but it feels a little too reverently official and not quite as revealing as I Just Wasn't Made for These Times.

Disc One also includes the London performance footage of "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow," interviews with people who attended the London show, and interviews with Wilson and Parks. The audio is available in 5.1, 2.0 or with score only.

Disc Two however, features the 52-minute live performance shot live over a single evening in Los Angeles, and it's utterly breathtaking. The sound and energy of the performance is even better than the studio-recorded CD. I came close to tears a few times. Brian's face during the performance is a thing to behold; you can almost watch his fear melt away into joy. Extras on this disc include "Brian at the piano," a photo gallery, a 20-minute "making of" featurette about the album, and a terrific animated "Heroes and Villains" contest winner video.

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