Spacey in ‘Beyond the Sea’ is beyond belief
There’s nothing wrong with a star finding another’s stars life so compelling and feeling so personally connected they feel they simply must be the one to tell the story. Actor Kevin Spacey’s passion for Bobby Darin is apparent since he decided to produce, write, direct and star in the “Beyond the Sea” (another) biopic, this one about the singer most famous for “Mack the Knife.”
It also becomes quickly apparent from the opening moments that Spacey has the chops, both singing and dancing, to pull off the gig. But he needed to look in the mirror (literally) and decide if he had the whole package to really convince the audience that, at 45, he could play the popular singer in various stages of his life, from his teens to his untimely death at a very young 37.
The answer is a resounding no and the age difference becomes such a behemoth elephant in the room distraction that it derails the film before it can barely get started.
Sadly, there isn’t much else to recommend. The movie is filmed as sort of a movie within a movie tracing Darin’s roots as a sickly runt in Brooklyn when a bout of rheumatic fever gave the boy little chance to live beyond 15. He did and went on to have several huge records including “Splish Splash,” basking in a crooner’s spotlight much like his idol Frank Sinatra.
Darin was a talented, but troubled, artist and Spacey devotes plenty of time to manifesting the singer’s chip on his shoulder. Constant flashbacks and flash forwards combined with a ubiquitous and sourpussed little Bobby (William Ulrich) leave the audience more confused than transfixed.
Lesser-known entertainers, especially those with a certain complexity worth examining, are best understood through straightforward narratives. (See the superb “Ray” or “Kinsey.”) “Beyond the Sea” doesn’t really tell us much about Bobby Darin except that Kevin Spacey worshipped him — but we knew that already when Spacey made this his pet project. For all we know, VH1’s “Behind the Music” special would have taught us much, much more.
Rated PG-13 for some language and a scene of sensuality.