The Kids Are Alright


January 20, 2009|By CHRIS KALTENBACH

Starring The Who. Directed by Jeff Stein. Sanctuary Records, $19.99 ****


This 1979 documentary, released less than a year after the death of drummer Keith Moon, showcases The Who at the peak of its powers. Video clips show band members in their earliest days, looking and sounding like the angry teenagers they were, while a later performance, filmed at London's Shepperton Studios in May 1978 (Moon would die less than four months later), showed they had lost none of their passion.

More than just a documentary looking to ensure The Who's place in rock's pantheon, The Kids Are Alright is a great film in its own right, a combination of artistry, power and irreverence (bassist John Entwistle uses his gold records for skeet shooting practice) as enlightening as it is entertaining. Of course, there's great music, with a playlist that includes "My Generation," "Magic Bus," "Pinball Wizard," "Baba O'Reilly" and a transcendent version of "Won't Get Fooled Again" that is among the greatest rock performances ever committed to film. But it's the clips of the band members through the years that add genuine insight.

The years since 1970 have been kind to the group - which, since Entwistle's death in 2002, has been largely dormant. The remaining band members, guitarist-songwriter Pete Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey, are now more elder statesmen than performers. But the vision and energy of their best work - and The Kids are Alright preserves an astonishing amount - remain as thrilling as ever.

Also out today: : When the Lion Roars (Warner Home Video, $29.98), a history of MGM studios that touches on everyone from Francis X. Bushman to Clark Gable to Judy Garland, offers an entertaining and informative (if a little too self-adulatory) look at the Golden Age of American movies. You may shed a tear as this 1992 documentary, with host Patrick Stewart, enters the 1970s and MGM starts looking more like a carcass waiting to be picked clean than a dream factory. But nothing can take away from the glory years when stars like Greta Garbo, Spencer Tracy, Gene Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor made it all look so glamorous and easy.

Other releases:: Mark Wahlberg is a DEA agent obsessed with finding his wife's killer in Max Payne (20th Century Fox, $29.98, Blu-ray $39.98), based on the video game; James Garner is Jim Rockford, the pinnacle of TV's private-eye genre, in The Rockford Files: Season Six (Warner Home Video, $39.98), the series' last season.

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