'Graffiti Bridge' is funky but childish


November 05, 1990|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

As Olivia Newton John didn't use to say, let's get metaphysical.

Prince certainly does in "Graffiti Bridge," a rock-opera in the key of faith, in which an Angel named Aura comes to earth to convince "The Kid" (Prince himself) to keep fighting and keep believing.

Wow. It's all so reverent, I was expecting guys to start passing the offering trays. I was so moved I was going to put my paycheck in, but the tray never reached me. Somebody stole it.

Anyway, the movie is childish, electric, funky, vivid and more or less gibberish; I think you have to be a real Prince fan to understand the secret language it appears to be written in.

Set in a nightclub district between Heaven, Hell and the Warner Bros. back lot, next to the Jack-in-the-Box in Burbank, the movie watches as The Kid and Morris Day haggle over the ownership of a club called Glam Slam, which has been left to both of them in joint ownership by Prince's script.

This sets up a contest of wills and songs, in which Morris' earthier carnality is contrasted with Prince's delicacy and lyricism. The irony is that Day has a much more vivid screen presence than Our Hero: He's vulgar, vivid, overdressed and funny.

Poor Prince offers himself up as a more ethereal spirit. He's all breathy murmurs and coy, flirtatious glances. He loves to wear clothes too big, so that one of his shoulders slips out. Once one of the sexiest, hard-driving sex objects in the rock world, he now seems intent upon turning himself into either Michael or LaToya Jackson.

A few of the numerous numbers are memorable, but the two best aren't by Prince. They're by gospel great Mavis Staples and 13-year-old Tevin Campbell. Day and his group The Time also have a few riveting moments.

Prince, meanwhile, has got religion, which shows you can't keep a bad man up.

'Graffiti Bridge'

Starring Prince and Morris Day.

Directed by Prince.

Released by Warner Bros.

Rated PG-13.

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