July/August 2019  (Volume 34, Issue 4)

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Criterion, 99 min., not rated, DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

This 1978 feature debut by Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) follows the high-spirited antics of six teenagers from New Jersey who travel to New York to see the Beatles make their American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964—despite the fact that none have tickets. There’s a budding journalist (Theresa Saldana) who wants a scoop, her resistant boyfriend (Marc McClure) who is pressured into providing the ride (a hearse from his father’s business), a folkie (Susan Kendall Newman) who wants to protest the Fab Four, a bride-to-be (Nancy Allen) on a last fling, a tough guy (Bobby Di Cicco) following the girls, and a crazed Beatlemaniac (Wendie Jo Sperber) driving them all on. It’s youth rebellion as pop culture comedy, with the kids defying and outsmarting the adults at every turn. The cleverly-engineered plot by Zemeckis and writing/producing partner Bob Gale sends the kids careening around the city and Zemeckis ingeniously keeps the Beatles at the center of the film (at the performance, carefully-placed cameras and screaming fans hide the Beatles’ faces while the monitors play the actual 1964 show). It’s raucous, colorful, rapidly paced, and very funny, showcasing the energy and off-kilter sense of humor that would later define the filmmaker’s Used Cars, the Back to the Future movies, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Presented with a new 4K restoration, extras include a new conversation with director Zemeckis, co-writer Gale, and executive producer Steven Spielberg, audio commentary by Zemeckis and Gale, new interviews with costars Allen and McClure, and two short student films by Zemeckis. Recommended. (S. Axmaker)