Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called…a scorecard.
30 years ago in July of 1984, Prince, who was already becoming a household name with hits like “1999” and “Little Red Corvette” made his film debut in Purple Rain. Michael Jackson had already released his groundbreaking 13 minute video for “Thriller” in December of 1983. So, what could an up-and-coming superstar do in order to get a little attention? Make a feature length film! In an extremely clever marketing move, songs and videos from the film were released early and the soundtrack was climbing the charts before the movie even opened. “When Doves Cry” became Prince’s first #1 single and the soundtrack ended up spending a record breaking 24 weeks at #1 on the Billboard chart between 1984 and 1985. Purple Rain also marks the first appearance of Prince’s band, The Revolution.
So, does the movie live up to the album? Does it stand the test of time? Does it deserve all this hype? The Nanobots grab their eyeliner and Aqua Net and head down to the club to experience the Glam/R&B/Funk spectacle that is Purple Rain.
- The audience in this club is wearing a lot of glam face paint and is looking a lot like David Bowie on the cover of his 1973 release Aladdin Sane. Way to be ahead of the trend, Minneapolis! = -4pts.
- Apollonia runs out on a $37.75 cab fare. That’s $37.75 in 1984 dollars. What, did she cab all the way from New Orleans? = -5pts. (For lack of planning.)
- The movie is set in a club called First Ave and 7th St Entry. Hey, at least it isn’t 9th & Hennepin. = +5pts.
- The man who rents Apollonia a shitty room in a flophouse where the windows won’t open looks an awful lot like Robert Englund in old man make-up. This movie may have just taken a weird turn. = +2pts.
- "Let’s Go Crazy," the extended movie mix! = +8pts.
- Apollonia confesses, “I don’t have a phone.” Remember when this was a thing? = -3pts.
- Even the waitress in this movie thinks “Apollonia” is a bullshit name. = +7pts.
- In the opening club sequence of this film, The Revolution opens for Morris Day and The Time to, we believe, establish that The Time is the headliner and The Revolution is still working their way up. We don’t know, movie, we think you just asked us to suspend our disbelief farther than we’re willing to go. = -5pts.
- NEVER SAY AN UNKIND WORD ABOUT THE TIME! = +5pts.
- Jerome Benton – the third best hype man in the business, right behind Flava Flav and that little dude from Kid Rock’s band. = +6pts.
- Prince goes home to introduce us to the family. Turns out his Dad, Francis L., is played by Link from The MOD Squad! = +4pts. Also, it turns out Francis L. is a domestic abuser. Shit just got real. = -14pts.
- We find out that Prince’s character’s name in this movie is The Kid. We can only assume that this is because typesetters were still 10 years from being able to do this thing:
But hey, at least “The Kid” is pronounceable! = +7pts.
- So, Prince can drive a motorcycle. We know this because we get to watch him and Apollonia drive through the Minnesota wilderness for a full minute and a half while “Take Me With You” plays in the background. We think this might count as the first screensaver. = -6pts.
- The Kid learns that Apollonia is a singer. He sounds as excited about that as we are. Way to sell it, Prince. = +4pts.
- So, Morris Day has Jerome throw one of his ladies in a dumpster, Prince has Apollonia jump into “not Lake Minnetonka,” and Doc, The Revolution’s keyboard player, makes a “she must be on her period” joke about Wendy, The Revolution’s guitar player. “I’m embarrassed for my gender,” declares Guest Technician John Ormond. = -28pts.
- Morris and Jerome do the “Who’s on First?” bit. Twice. Someone thought that was working. = -9pts.
- Wendy: Best 80’s hair. Period. = +16pts.
- The scene where Wendy is frustrated and pissed off at Prince? Yeah, probably not acting. = +8pts.
- As Morris and The Kid compete for Apollonia’s affections, Morris goes with champagne in martini glasses and some awkward conversation about his waterbed. The Kid chooses to sing “The Beautiful Ones” to her. Game: The Kid. = +25pts.
- Whoever thought to have The Kid and Apollonia enter The Kid’s home through a weird basement window on the side of the house knows a thing or two about living in a domestic freak show. Kudos. = +11pts.
- We have officially reached the “…and backstage, things were falling apart” portion of the movie. = -4pts.
- With all of the theatrics, it’s sometimes easy to forget what a great guitar player Prince really is. The opening guitar riff from “When Doves Cry” exists to remind us of this. Also, please enjoy this clip from the 2006 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for George Harrison. Prince completely owns the end of this song. = +40pts.
- Domestic violence *is* what it sounds like when doves cry. Get out of our soul, Prince. = +50pts.
- A flashback montage of Apollonia and The Kid gettin’ it on rolls during “When Doves Cry” and includes a scene of them in a hayloft. Since we don’t remember that scene taking place, all we can figure is Prince laying the groundwork for “Raspberry Beret.” = -5pts.
- “Computer Blue,” a song written by Wendy and Lisa, might be about internet porn, which would be remarkable since that hadn’t been invented yet. = +3pts.
- How in the Hell does The Revolution know all this choreography for their stage show when no one shows up at the same time for rehearsal? Never happens. Not once. = -10pts.
- Ah, “Darling Nikki,” the song that inspired Tipper Gore to start the PMRC because, you know, no one had ever written a song about sex before this.
…and for anyone who might think that “Darling Nikki” is misogynistic, here is a video of Maya Rudolph totally owning this song (even the backwards part at the end).
…and for anyone who might think that “Darling Nikki” is a novelty song and that it doesn’t have much to it, here is a video of the Foo Fighters tearin’ it up.
“Darling Nikki” recap:
Song = +69pts.
PMRC = -40pts.
Current cover versions of the song that no one protests nor is offended by = +29pts.
- The backstage area of the First Ave club has a system of hallways more complex than that “Hello Cleveland” scene from Spinal Tap. = -4pts.
- Billy, the club owner, philosophizes that the stage ain’t no place for The Kid’s personal shit. Really? ‘Cause we thought the stage was *exactly* the place for that. = -5pts.
- Let’s recap the musical atrocity that just happened. The Revolution plays “Darling Nikki” to a lukewarm crowd shaking their heads at The Kid’s fucked up-ness. Across town, Apollonia 6 lip-syncs-for-their-life to a song called “Sex Shooter” wearing lingerie and “dancing” to an adoring crowd throwing dollar bills at them and, somehow, Apollonia 6 wins the day. = -6pts.
- In a last ditch effort to win Father of the Year, Francis L. attempts to commit suicide. = -9pts.
- Aside from the opening number, The Kid wears the same pair of pants throughout the entire movie. Big points for rocker realism. = +17pts.
- After Morris Day takes a shot at The Kid asking, “How’s the family?” he turns the corner and takes a moment. He has even managed to shock himself with his doucheticity. = +8pts.
- The Kid takes all of his pain, angst and personal tragedy and throws it all into the song “Purple Rain.” How’s that for putting personal shit on stage, Billy? Huh? That’s an Academy Award winning song, right there. Is that good enough for you, Billy? Huh? Is it? = +90pts.
- Prince: Texting before it was cool. = +9pts.
Available on DVD, Blu-Ray and in the box of VHS tapes in your storage locker.
Purple Rain still stands as the fun musical romp that it was meant to be. Look, you are not going to find any Actor’s Studio level performances here. That was never what this was about. Since most everyone in this film plays themselves, however, they do a serviceable job of keeping it together long enough so we can get to the important part – the music! Vive la Revolution!
May u live 2 see the dawn!
Score Technician: Stacey Hanlon, feat. John Ormond