"Bohemian Rhapsody" feels like a gross and cowardly attempt by the remaining members of Queen (who are executive producers with veto power) to fluff up their legacy and posthumously punish their problematic lead singer, Freddie Mercury.
The movie is awkwardly trying to be two things: the story of Queen's rise to fame and a biography of Mercury. But it doesn't do either very well - too generic and cliched as a rock 'n' roll story, and too afraid to take on Mercury's wild life honestly.
In telling the story of Queen, there's never any struggle, no sense of doubt in their risk taking. It's a movie that already knows the future - evidenced by a lame scene with Mike Myers as a record exec telling them "Bohemian Rhapsody" will never be a song kids bang their heads to in the car (remember that famous scene in "Wayne's World?").
Yeah, this movie's that obvious, except for when it comes to its handling of Freddie's lifestyle. It's content to merely imply things it wants to shame him for. His bisexuality (he's told he's just gay) is played for maximum scandal. In scenes of wild parties, we see a boisterous and flamboyant Freddie while the rest of the band just respectfully sips cocktails looking innocent and scandalized. To quote another Mike Myers character, "Riiiiiiggghht."
Freddie is also made to grovel to the rest of his band mates - which feels like cinematic score-settling. But despite the dull and dishonest screenplay, the music is great, of course, although sometimes deployed clumsily. Concert scenes are thrilling and fans should enjoy seeing versions of how classics came together.
Rami Malek is sensational as Freddie - especially during the climactic Live Aid performance, which is a stunner. That he's able to shine through lip-syncing Freddie and some over-sized false teeth that look like they're trying to escape his mouth, is a real feat of acting. It's just a shame the movie doesn't give him much of a character to dig into. Malek deserves better, and so does the man he inhabits.
Queen comes out of "Bohemian Rhapsody" looking great - but Freddie has mud on his face, a big disgrace indeed.
EPPLER'S RATING: * *
* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year * * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles * * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing * * Mediocre - You can do better * Awful - The worst, an insult to movies