“And the home … of the … brave! Play ball!”

Golden Mug


Best Documentary

Theatrical Release Date: 04/09/2008
Director: Stephen Walker

Now showing in limited release across the country is 2008′s feel-good documentary, “Young@Heart”; the story of a singing group comprised of America’s elder statesmen and women. However, they’re not singing old standards or simple chorus pieces. They’re bringing soul, funk and rock ‘n roll to their audiences, covering bands like James Brown, Sonic Youth, The Ramones and Coldplay.

No band is off limits. In the introduction of the film, director/narrator Stephen Walker even mentions that they’ve performed songs by Outcast and The Beatles. Alas, neither the Fab Four or Big Boi and Andre 3000 get any airtime in this film but that just leaves you wanting more.

As a documentary, it’s a pretty standard one. Walker interviews members of the group, their families and their chorus director, weaving live and video performances of the Young@Heart ensemble into the mix. The pacing was pretty well done and just when things begin to get bogged down a little bit, out comes a fantastic/hilarious/touching rendition of David Bowie’s “Golden Years” or The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive”.

While it shouldn’t deter you from watching this, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Since every member of the group is old enough to get discounts at Denny’s, not all of them make it to the climactic concert that is the primary focus of the documentary. This would be sad in any circumstance, and only more so because over the course of the film, you feel connected to them – even if only in some small measure.

And seeing them work so diligently to learn the songs and perform at a high level, it reminds me that I rarely like any activity that doesn’t require a couch, remote control and/or chocolate chip cookies. To see this marvelous group of people, closer to the end of their lives than I am to the beginning of mine, it’s a great reminder of what’s important in life.

They use their camaraderie and love of music to stay positive and active. Their group tours Europe every year and I would love to see them come by Southern California so I could get a chance to hear them perform live. It’s the kind of heartwarming film that just puts a smile on your face, which isn’t the case with nearly any documentary I’ve seen in the last year since almost everything is focused on the Iraq War.

If you want to spend a little under two hours in a theater, tapping your foot and feeling good about the world, “Young@Heart” is the ticket and I’m going to give it a solid 3 out of 5. From a filmmaking aspect, there are some issues with camera work, editing and whatnot. But the subjects and issues on-screen are universal and just a lot of fun. Sometimes, that’s all a film needs to be.