Review: Beastie Boys Story

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: Mike D and Ad Rock of the celebrated Beastie Boys tell the story of their 40 year friendship, the music they created, and share memories of their best friend and partner, Adam Yauch. 

REVIEW: A good music documentary can introduce new audiences to a sound they’ve never taken the time to truly listen to. It may even bring the artist in question a new listener. A great music documentary can not only please new fans, but it may give the older, loyal ones something that they hadn’t been aware of. And then there is BEASTIE BOYS STORY. Not only does it feature an impressive collection of their songs, it’s one of the best music documentaries ever made. Full stop. It’s a fascinating look at the rise of what is arguably one of the best musical acts to ever play on your local radio station. It’s also the story of friendship, fame and heartbreak. It’s a shockingly personal, and brilliant work that feels as robust and alive as some of the bands greatest hits. You’ve probably heard this one before, but play this muthaf*cka loud!

Much like a more traditional documentary, BEASTIE BOYS STORY includes interview footage, backstage antics, live performances and more. However, similarly to the trio’s musical catalogue, the Spike Jonze directed feature mixes things up. After a nostalgic look back at Mike D, Ad-Rock and Adam Yauch with a bit of music and mayhem, we are introduced to Ad-Rock (aka Adam Horowitz) and Mike D (aka Mike Diamond). The two share a near empty stage – with a couple of well thought out props – in front of a packed house. On that stage, in between all the video footage, they tell their story. This includes the early years when they had more in common with a punk band like Bad Brains as opposed to something more like Run-D.M.C., all the way to the later years and the unbelievable survival of a forty year friendship.

Beastie Boys, Beastie Boys Story, Spike Jonze, Mike D, Adam Yauch, Ad-Rock, music, documentary, 2020

Let’s start with the more traditional part of this film, which is the footage and the past interviews. This collection is a perfect representation of how the band changed from their early work to their later hits. And right from the start, we are reminded of how impactful the death of Yauch was for those that were left behind. As heartbreaking as it is, this documentary is a celebration of what the Beastie Boys created. And the music still feels shockingly relevant. The film also digs in deep to when it wasn’t just boys in the band – their original drummer was their friend Kate Schellenbach. It’s a fun and compelling exploration of three best friends making music, fighting for your right to party, and practicing a bit of Ill Communication. If you love their music, you will adore this film. But there’s more…

What makes this experience truly special is how effortlessly Mike D and Ad-Rock command the stage. Armed with only a microphone, they tell this history with humor, with grace and without holding anything back. The two are natural storytellers as they explore some of wild antics of their early years when they opened for Madonna. They discuss the trials and tribulations of dealing with the music industry, including the painful financial disappointment of their 1989 release "Paul's Boutique" which has since become a classic record. Nothing is off limits, including a very funny moment where Horowitz discusses his feature film debut in a movie that he asks the audience to not look for. It’s called LOST ANGELS and apparently I liked it more than he did. The segments have chapters, and even the names given to each chapter are clever and hilarous, especially a running joke about which song “changed everything” for the band. Even if you aren’t a fan, you’ll love the rich musical history presented here by the two incredibly charming hosts.

Beastie Boys, Beastie Boys Story, Ad-Rock, Mike D, Adam Yauch, Spike Jonze, music, documentary, 2020

One of the most effective qualities of this features is the creative touch that Spike Jonze brings. The choice of footage presented works marvelously with the live stage show that is so simple, yet surprisingly creative, especially one scene where Ad-Rock and Mike D "walk down a street" while acting out a conversation that once took place. Somehow he manages to bring a very personal and intimate touch to the film, even if it still feels larger than life – BEASTIE BOYS STORY was originally scheduled to be featured in IMAX theatres and it would have been a treat to experience it that way. This mix of live theatrical storytelling and musical history lesson never feels dull or uninspired. And strangely, by including a couple of mistakes that happen during the show, it somehow makes it feel more accessible and even works in favor of the film. It’s really just a damn good movie.

BEASTIE BOYS STORY is a joy for moviegoers whether you’re a fan of the band or not. It’s a raw, intimate, engaging, expertly produced exploration of one of the most important rock/rap bands of the past few decades. And frankly, watching it, you’ll easily understand why they are still loved and respected today. As impressive as this film is visually, it’s the absolute love that these guys clearly have towards each other and the music they made that draws the viewer in. This is the Beastie Boys, uncensored and honest. There’s no narration. It’s not just another music documentary with a bunch of talking heads discussing how much they dug the band. This is a fearlessly open story that will literally make you laugh and cry, and more importantly, turn the volume up and rock out. If you love movies and music, this is a must see.

Beastie Boys, Beastie Boys Story, Adam Yauch, Mike D, Ad-Rock, Spike Jonze, music, biography, 2020

Look for the BEASTIE BOYS STORY this Friday on Apple TV+.

Beastie Boys Story

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Source: JoBlo.com

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JimmyO is one of JoBlo.com’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.