What year is it? The Color Purple is back on the big screen. This time in the form of a big-budget stage musical that is directed by Samuel Bazawule, otherwise known as the Ghanaian rapper Blitz the Ambassador. Based on the 1982 novel of the same name by Alice Walker that was adapted for the silver screen by Steven Spielberg in 1985, someone thought The Color Purple should not be a movie about women being abused and raped in the early 1900s of the Southern United States, but rather a remade musical film about women being abused and raped in the early 1900s of the Southern United States. It does not transfer over well at all except the first five minutes of the movie where the actors and filmmaker commit to the lifestyle of a musical – jazz hands and all.
These two opposing elements simply do not mix. From that opening number that introduces most of the characters and features a great dance number and wonderful music, the movie quickly slides into a mess of different tones in its overly long 2.5-hour run time. When the narrative is constantly showcasing these women being abused by the men in their lives, sticking together and standing up to their enemy doesn’t come so easily, and it’s a rough watch to see these characters go through their harsh times, whether it being raped, physically beaten, or even thrown in jail by horrifying neighbors. This is something the original film captured beautifully and with grace in a brutal yet poetic look at their lives and how they overcame everything.
In this new musical version, these moments of suspense and sadness are broken up with musical numbers that completely change the tone of the film, forgetting everything these characters go through on their journey. It’s a waste of 150 minutes with no real payoff other than a super cheesy get-together at the end of the film where everyone pretends to be okay. The music is forgettable and uninspiring while the performances are decent enough, there’s no real memorable moment that lasts.
For fans of the stage musical, there might be a magical and more tender moment that creates a bond between the audience member and performer, but in a big-budget feature film, there are no shared connections, and the only thing that comes through is a misstep in filmmaking and tone that doesn’t satisfy a narrative or musical urge. Warner Bros. took a beloved tale and award-winning film from the ’80s by the most legendary filmmaker in the world and gave the story to someone who wanted to make it into a subpar music video. This is the time we all live in, folks. Get used to it. Skip this altogether and revisit the Spielberg version.