Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 3, 2016)
While Prince’s career still worked pretty well circa 1990, he’d definitely dropped since his mid-1980s glory days. As such, I guess he figured the time was right to re-explore the property that took him to megastar status in 1984: Purple Rain.
With 1990’s Graffiti Bridge, Prince developed a semi-sequel to that earlier hit, but here - as with 1986’s dud Under the Cherry Moon and 1987’s wonderful concert flick Sign O the Times - he took the directing reins himself.
Prince managed to strike gold with one of those two efforts. Times stands as arguably the greatest concert film ever made, but Moon outright stinks. Bridge isn’t any better than Moon - and it might be worse.
As a follow-up to Purple Rain, Bridge again stars Prince as the Kid, a musician who now runs his own club called Glam Slam. Morris (Morris Day) wants to rule the musical roost, though, so he tries to run the Kid out of business.
As part of that plan, Morris gets flunkies to attempt to blow up Glam Slam. They fail, and Morris confronts the Kid.
Morris doesn’t like the “spiritual” music the Kid makes and thinks that because he owns half of the club, he should have a say. After the pair bicker and after a funky showdown, Morris demands the Kid pay him the money he owes him. This becomes difficult since his club’s not doing all that well because the locals don’t dig the Kid’s recent music.
The Kid gets a message from the mystical Aura (Ingrid Chavez) that the secret’s “just around the corner”. He puzzles over this while Morris bickers with girlfriend Robin (Robin Power), whose father also funded much of Morris’ operation.
Both Morris and the Kid pine for the elusive Aura, a poet who writes mysterious lines. They compete for her as she pursues her own agenda, and this all leads toward a battle of the bands for the ownership of the club.
Prince clearly imagines greater goals for Bridge than found in the semi-biopic Purple Rain, as he wants to deliver religious themes as he looks at salvation - or something like that. As with much of Prince’s work, it makes sense to no one but himself.
Because of that, Bridge becomes borderline nonsensical. Scratch that - it’s totally nonsensical. Clearly Prince had something in mind with this tale, but I’ll be damned if I could figure out the point. The movie meanders and goes nowhere.
For the most part, Bridge comes across as little more than a loosely connected series of music videos. I think Prince planned for it to be a true musical, but the songs do little to illustrate the story, and they often pop up out of nowhere. They mostly attempt to liven up the proceedings, but they don’t.
The story makes no sense. For one, it often just repeats the same “nobody understands the Kid” element from Purple Rain, which is a lazy way to create conflict.
The movie seems to take place on the Planet of the Music Video, as the insanely stylized sets and locations look nothing like reality. Even outdoors shots appear fake and artificial.
Was this intentional? Probably, but I can’t figure out what point it serves. Instead, it just makes the movie look cheap and phony.
No one handed out awards for the acting in Purple Rain, but the performances in Bridge are even worse. Prince remains distant and uncompelling, and Day loses any charm that he brought to his character the first time. He fails to present the roguish spark from the earlier flick, and here he turns overbearing and obnoxious. How did he go from preening egotist to violent criminal?
Like everything else in Bridge, this fails to make the slightest amount of sense. If Morris owns half of Glam Slam, why try to destroy it? Why does the Kid owe him money? Is this movie actually about anything?
Not as far as I can tell. Graffiti Bridge enjoys an underrated soundtrack; it’s not as good as the music from Rain, but it presents a lot of solid songs. Otherwise, the film is a complete disaster.