When I wrote my very first movie review (for Pixar’s Up) in May 2009, Beastie Boys were very much a thing, still two years from releasing Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. Streaming services were gaining some traction, but Blockbuster was still in business, and Apple was working out the kinks in their first-generation Apple TV player.
Now, as I write my 1000th review, the 8-year anniversary of the passing of Boys’ founder Adam “MCA” Yauch is just over a week away, and the rap trio’s Spike Jonze-directed documentary is one of the first full-length films to be offered on the new Apple TV+ service. Speaking of which, we’re just about due for the sixth-generation Apple TV player.
Times change, indeed.
Filmed a year ago in front of a live audience at Brooklyn’s Kings Theater, Beastie Boys Story gives remaining members Adam “Ad Rock” Horovitz and Michael “Mike D” Diamond one last chance to put a punctuation mark on their career—following 2018’s Beastie Boys Book and then its stellar, star-studded audio version a few months later. A fine treat for fans (and hopefully a long-overdue introduction for the as-yet uninitiated), Beastie Boys Story finds Adam and Mike (now clean-cut middle-aged men) telling their story in the manner of an Apple keynote—walking across the stage as a massive screen projects archival video clips and photos behind them. And though it’s great to see the fellas one last time, it’s hard to escape the feeling that something (and not just MCA) is missing.
Heavily scripted (Horovitz and Diamond trip over the teleprompter more than once), Story feels at times canned and at other times half-hearted, particularly on the part of Horovitz. While Diamond seems like a geeky kid in a candy store throughout, using hilarious impressions and high-fives to tell his story, Horovitz often seems embarrassed and/or jaded, eager to put a lot of his younger years even further behind him than they already are.
The lopsided script is also weighted heavily toward the group’s early years—after the first hour of the film, we’ve only chronologically gotten through the release of their first (of eight) albums. And their final three records (To the 5 Boroughs, The Mix-Up, and Hot Sauce) are never even mentioned.
Of course, the movie does eventually find its heart and its true purpose as Horovitz and Diamond pay tribute to Yauch. Horovitz, in fact, completely changes his tune and tears up remembering his lost friend; perhaps the whole film is just a build-up to that moment, as if he is saying, “Yeah, yeah. We made Licensed to Ill, we toured with Madonna, nobody liked Paul’s Boutique, yada yada yada. Now… MCA.”
It’s as moving (and often properly funny) a tribute as you may ever see, and well-deserved. The reverence that Diamond and Horovitz offer to their third amigo is the true heart of not only Beastie Boys Story but the entire Beastie Boys story.