“Beyond the Sea” is such a hopeless mess that there’s no fun in tossing insults at its endless shortcomings. This is not a so-bad-it’s-good flick, but rather it is so bad that you’re ashamed to acknowledge you wasted time with it.
The key attraction to “Beyond the Sea” is the pathetic spectacle of 45-year-old Kevin Spacey trying to be something he is not: singer Bobby Darin when he was a youthful pop star in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Despite wearing blatantly obvious toupees and the heaviest make-up this side of a kabuki theater, Spacey cannot capture the illusion of youth. This is all the more painful in love scenes with Kate Bosworth, who is herself badly cast as Sandra Dee. Spacey and Bosworth look like father and daughter rather than youthful peers, and it throws the whole love story subplot badly out of whack.
If it was just a case of not looking like the subject he is playing, Spacey would not be under scrutiny. Unfortunately, he opted to perform Darin’s songs himself rather than follow the Jamie Foxx route and lip-sync to the classic tunes. As a singer, Spacey does a wonderful imitation of Jerry Vale’s singing – but that stuff on the soundtrack bears no resemblance to Darin’s distinct voice.
It actually gets worse. Borrowing a notion from the Dennis Potter bag of tricks, “Beyond the Sea” inserts musical fantasy sequences into the midst of the story. Thus, people start to dance in the streets and up staircases without provocation or purpose. This might work if there was a star in charge who can dance. Spacey dances like a drugged horse. Will somebody please get the hook?
So what do we have? An actor who is two decades too old for a role, recreating well-loved songs in a voice that sounds nothing like the original source, and flat-footing about in the surreal dance numbers. Who is to blame for this madness? We could point to the director, who is none other than Kevin Spacey. Or the four producers, one of whom is Kevin Spacey. Or perhaps blame should go to the misguided folks who financed this sorry ego trip and allowed it to be dropped in theaters.
“Beyond the Sea” is an apt title – all of the prints, negatives, soundtrack recordings and evidence of this film’s existence should be deposited somewhere far, far, far beyond the sea!