The Austin Chronicle

Phases and Stages


Reviewed by Matt Dentler, October 24, 2003, Music

The Who

The Kids Are Alright (Special Edition)

(Pioneer Entertainment) On a commentary track for The Kids Are Alright, director Jeff Stein confesses he wanted hysteria, not history, for his film. His wish could not be better granted with the new, 2-DVD chronicling of The Who's vibrant peak. They don't make rock bands like The Who anymore, or make films like The Kids Are Alright. This symbiotic creativity redefines itself with a remastered version of the 1979 film and bonus features that are a hysterical take on Who history. Kids is among the great celluloid essays on the power of rock music, interweaving classic TV performances with humorous interviews of the band's dynamic members. It was a band full of genius (from the mad Keith Moon to angry Pete Townshend), and they explode through a nonlinear story structure. This isn't merely a compilation of sound bites and MTV patchwork -- this is cinema. Like the Beatles' Let It Be and other famed rock docs, a definitive version has been nearly impossible to find. The DVD is quick to point out the revisions and repair necessary to make it happen. For example, there's the inclusion of the "lost" performance from the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus. The discs contain illuminating extras such as isolating John Entwistle's thunderous bass from the audio mix. Kids looks and sounds amazing thanks to excessive tinkering. Yet its biggest asset -- Stein's commentary -- sucks most of the life from the 100 minutes of actual cinema. Rather than complement it, Stein and company tirelessly expand on too many points. Few of them add to the experience, and instead, the time is a waste. The Who had such a combustible charisma, you can't speak over them. Nevertheless, this flaw accentuates the strength of the band, and the beauty of the film about them.

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