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Staff & contributors
Contrary to the headline displayed on this film’s poster, Disney’s The Beach Boys isn’t a definitive guide to the band. Instead, it plays like a “greatest hits” album that goes through their famous ups and downs. Their steady rise among American teens and leader Brian Wilson’s pop music innovations are covered, as are the more dour moments of their career, like the relentless abuse they got from their manager (the Wilsons’ father Murry) and the disagreements between Brian and his cousin and co-writer Mike Love. But for better or worse, the documentary doesn’t go into too much detail about these high-profile feuds, focusing instead on the joy and brilliance of their era-defining music, which tends to get buried beneath all the drama anyway. Because of this sunny approach, the film sometimes fails to match the band’s complexity. But there’s no denying that it's just as enjoyable to watch as it is to listen to The Beach Boys' music.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Al Jardine, Blondie Chaplin, Brian Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Carl Wilson, Charles Manson, Chuck Berry, David Marks, Dennis Wilson, Don Was, George Harrison, Glen Campbell, Janelle Monáe, John Lennon, Lindsey Buckingham, Mike Love, Paul McCartney, Ricky Fataar, Ringo Starr, Ryan Tedder

Director: Frank Marshall, Thom Zimny

Rating: PG-13

Composed of archival footage of the titular musical legend and testimonials from those who worked with him or whose lives were profoundly impacted by his courage, Little Richard: I Am Everything feels comprehensive but is also oddly lacking. The documentary makes a bold, confident claim: that all popular music today can be directly traced to his work. And when the film lets itself get into full music nerd mode, it's easy to be convinced. But after you accept that perspective on Little Richard, the rest of the movie seems like it's just spinning its wheels, covering key moments in the artist's life and career without really challenging or substantiating long-held ideas about him.

Chief among these is Little Richard's shifting feelings toward his own queerness—proudly expressing his true self one year, then openly denouncing his own homosexuality the next. This subject matter is ripe for difficult but insightful analysis, which the film just never gets around to. It begins to feel like the believes there is no more discussion to be had about him. And that may very well be true; he deserves the flowers that were denied him for so long. But this attitude doesn't necessarily make for the best documentary.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Alan Freed, Billy Porter, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, John Waters, Little Richard, Mick Jagger, Nile Rodgers, Nona Hendryx, Pat Boone, Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Valerie June

Director: Lisa Cortés