Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll

Director: Taylor Hackford
Year Released: 1987
Rating: 2.0

Rock pioneer Chuck Berry celebrates his sixtieth birthday with a big concert in his hometown in Missouri, playing music for the largely white crowd and, for the documentary bits, telling director Hackford his own version of his life, omitting nasty personal details that get in the way of the praise. Berry - in his prime - was unforgettable in Bert Stern's (much better film) Jazz on a Summer's Day and more or less going through the motions here - the all-star backing band formed by Rolling Stones maverick Keith Richards (which also includes Linda Ronstadt, Eric Clapton and Etta James) make the concert seem strangely bloated, like it's a live tribute album. Hackford approaches Berry about his run-ins with the law and hints at Berry's nasty off-stage personality, but Berry-as-producer refuses to address any of this, and Hackford-as-interviewer doesn't force it. Someone-with-taste should have thrown Julian Lennon out of the room for screwing up "Johnny B. Goode."