The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘Purple Rain’

This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here.

A Note From The Joes

Originally, we were going to review/riff on “Harry and the Hendersons” this week. That changed with the passing of Minnesota icon and music legend Prince on Thursday, April 21. After some discussion, we agreed that only the Purple One could ever alter our JOE-DOWN schedule. So, in honor of Prince, we are reviewing his 1984 film “Purple Rain.” We will review “Harry and the Hendersons” next week.

The info:

The Movie: “Purple Rain” (1984)

Starring: Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day

Director: Albert Magnoli

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A young man with a talent for music has begun a career with much promise. He meets an aspiring singer, Apollonia, and finds that talent alone isn’t all that he needs. A complicated tale of his repeating his father’s self-destructive behavior, losing Apollonia to another singer (Morris Day), and his coming to grips with his own connection to other people ensues.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 67 percent

Our take:

Brown: We now know one man who can take down a sasquatch. And that man is Prince.

It does feel like the world is a little less cool with Prince passing away Thursday in Chanhassen. Between him and David Bowie (who I was a huge fan of), it’s been a bad year for enigmatic rock stars. So, Froemming and I wanted to pay tribute the only way we know how: With snark.

Before we get into “Purple Rain,” I will say that I wasn’t a diligent listener of his work, but I respect the way Prince handled his craft. It could have been so easy to try and do albums like “Purple Rain” over and over again and make even more money. But, Prince made the music HE wanted to create regardless of expectations. As I get older, I find that uncompromising style endearing. Way to do you, Prince.

I know you touched on your thoughts on Prince in a previous blog post. Anything you wanted to say before we get into the movie, Froemming?

Froemming: Let’s just say I have been pretty bummed out since I heard he passed. I wasn’t the biggest Prince fan, but I am a fan of his music. And the fact he was royalty here in Minnesota makes the loss a little more sad. But, again, I wrote about that already. So, Brown, let’s go crazy and review “Purple Rain.”

Brown: Before we get started, I will say one thing: Any criticism of Prince is based on this movie and this movie only.

Right away, we hear The Revolution playing “Let’s Go Crazy,” and already I’m uncomfortable because the song’s intro is very much like a funeral. Thirty seconds in and I was already profoundly sad.

Froemming: Yeah, I was in the same boat as you. But most of my sadness disappeared once he starts performing the song and playing piano with his feet. I started kicking myself for never actually seeing him live, because based from what I saw in this movie, it must have been an epic show to see.

Also, I had never seen this movie prior to watching it for the JOE-DOWN.

Brown: I became even more bummed out knowing Prince (called The Kid in this movie) has more musical talent in his high-heeled shoes than I have in my whole being.

With that said, the true star of the movie arrives on stage next as Morris Day and the Time perform “Jungle Love.” And Morris Day, man, I know who I want to be when I grow up.

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Froemming: I know I can grow a pretty epic mustache, but I wish I could pull off the style Morris rocks in this movie.

We get the sense after this two-epic-song-intro to the film that The Kid (I was halfway through the film before I realized Prince didn’t have an actual name in this movie) and Morris are musical rivals at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

It made me wish we had bands like The Revolution and The Time performing at First Avenue these days. All we get now are bearded hipsters playing the flute to old 1920s railroad songs.

Brown: While The Kid is an electric showman on stage, he has the weirdest interactions with women. Apollonia arrives on the scene looking to become a star at First Avenue as a singer/dancer. And when The Kid sees her, he just stares at her like Apollonia’s a 3-D picture, going so far as to walking behind her and putting sunglasses on indoors (really, dude?) while not saying a word.

I’ll get into this later, but this movie has weird beats to it where it seems like a horror movie. This was treading on “American Psycho” territory.

Froemming: Yup, his creepy stalking put me off for a moment, and then he disappears in a puff of purple smoke (not really). We also get a glimpse into the home life of The Kid early on, with his abusive father beating his mother. Things get dark right away in this film, which I was not expecting at all.

Brown: Yeah, “Purple Rain” has a bit of a problem with trying to determine its tone. It can’t decide if it wants to be a drama or a more musically-driven film. It’s very herky-jerky when it transitions.

While The Kid’s home life is a downer, we go back to Morris Day and his cohort Jerome. And I love any time Morris Day and Jerome are on screen together. I’ll say it now: They have more chemistry than The Kid and Apollonia. And the first scene they really have together features Jerome hucking a woman over his shoulder and throwing her into a dumpster so she leaves Morris Day alone. It was like watching John Cena give someone an Attitude Adjustment.

Froemming: Jerome was my favorite character in this film. I agree with you, the interactions between him and Morris was a major highlight of this film. But after this we get right back into The Kid stalking Apollonia, even going up and stealing some jewelry from her. But in my mind, I was “of course, it’s Prince, he can do stuff like that and nobody questions it.” Sometimes his real-life persona and celebrity clouded how I was suppose to feel about his on-screen character. Because his on-screen character is a major ass in this film at times.

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Brown: I’ll delve into this point later, but here’s my takeaway from this movie: Morris Day is the hero and The Kid is just a bad person. Case in point: The Lake Minnetonka scene. He conned a woman into jumping into a lake in the fall. That’s how you get hypothermia.

Froemming: Hey, he told her to purify herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. He didn’t say the lake they were at was Minnetonka. Don’t blame The Kid for Apollonia being an idiot in that scene.

Brown: OK… then I can blame him for driving away from Apollonia as she’s scrambling to put her clothes back on and continue to be a jerk as she tries to get on his motorcycle. I think you got the joke across when she went into the lake, you little purple jerk.

Froemming: It’s called flirting, Brown.

Anyway, after this, we see the villains Morris and Jerome plotting to start an all-girl music group, that if successful, means The Kid and his band, The Revolution, will no longer be able to perform at First Avenue. This is where Morris and Jerome have their take on the old “Who’s On First” gag by setting up a password for when Apollonia arrives at the club, so Morris can woo her.

Brown: While we’re on the topic of flirting, when Morris Day and Apollonia talk, Morris Day struggles to not sound like a dope. I mean, I know The Kid and Morris Day seem to ooze sexuality, but they have the social skills of my two-year-old nephew.

This leads up to another performance by The Revolution that seemed like it went on forever. I get this is a musical drama, but it’s a movie, not a music video.

Froemming: I think the extended music scenes might have bothered me any other time than the time I watched this. I truly enjoyed watching Prince performing in these scenes, and I enjoyed the film using the whole songs. Again, any other time it might have been an issue with me, but not this time.

Brown: I forgot to mention my favorite part of this movie: The backstage scene where The Kid is talking with his band. His bandmates Lisa and Wendy have a song they created but The Kid is dismissive of anyone else writing songs. I feel like this is how McCartney/Lennon treated Ringo.

And while he’s talking to his band, he’s playing and talking with a puppet. I want to see a 90-minute feature film with The Kid and the puppet, like a buddy cop movie or something.

Prince+Puppet+Crop

Froemming: This touches on the horror movie theme you brought up earlier, because The Kid dismisses Lisa and Wendy via the puppet. And he then proceeds to have a short conversation with himself with the puppet. It was a very odd moment in the film and makes The Kid seem like a sociopath.

And watching these music scenes, I actually said to myself “do these bands only play one song?” As it turns out, yes. And the management has a problem with it. I’m glad they addressed that in the film.

Brown: Apollonia and The Kid head off to his house, where his bipolar parents are making out on the couch. So they sneak into The Kid’s “Silence of the Lambs” basement. And I went back to thinking that The Kid was going to put an axe (which would probably be purple) into Apollonia’s back. I mean, The Kid has a tape of a woman crying playing backward on his stereo. That is some Ted Bundy stuff.

Froemming: Oh man. Yeah, and he points out that it sounds like she is laughing, because it is backward tape looping or whatever. But he actually recorded a woman crying, sampled it, and put it to his sexy music. Not even Patrick Bateman from “American Psycho” pulled a stunt like that. Also, he has some creepy-ass art on his walls.

Brown: Well, it doesn’t matter how creepy the basement is. They have sex. And they are going to meet the next day. In the meantime, The Kid proves to be a terrible band leader again by leaving stage after one song. Then he goes home and for the second time in the movie, gets in the middle of a domestic dispute with his parents and gets knocked out for his troubles. The Kid cannot take a punch and I couldn’t help from laugh because his dad looked like Samuel L. Jackson.

Froemming: There were moments when I heard the songs from the soundtrack in my head as I watched some of these scenes. Especially with his parents, I kept hearing “maybe I’m just like my father/too cold” from “When Doves Cry.” Also, his dad literally says to his wife “I would die for you,” which is a song on the soundtrack.

Brown: Apollonia eventually comes back to the dungeon basement and gives The Kid a present: A custom guitar that she somehow found at a pawn shop. Nevermind that you would never find a guitar like that in a pawn shop, what did The Kid do to deserve such a gift? You had sex once, and in the meantime, he has not helped you in your quest to become a star.

Froemming: She also drops the bomb on him saying she is going to work for Morris, who actually has found a way to get her started in the music scene. And The Kid SLAPS her for that. Dude, you have done nothing to help her, you just showed her your weird parents sucking face and your disturbing basement lair.

Brown: The Kid: Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

OK, so I have to address something: Apollonia is the worst actor we’ve watched in a JOE-DOWN movie, and we’ve seen a Denise Richards movie. She gets taken to the ground by a Kid slap and she emotes NOTHING. What did she bring to this movie, exactly? I’m having a hard time figuring that out.

Froemming: Yeah, she was a terrible actress. Maybe they needed her to sing “Sex Shooter” later on in the film? I have no idea.

Brown: You mean the Apollonia 6 award-winning song “Sex Shooter?” What award did it win? A Razzie. Apollonia also got a Razzie for her efforts in this film. Truly deserved.

Froemming: Yup, she was not a highlight of this film in any way.

But let’s continue on. The Kid comes home yet again, to find his mother beaten and shaken on the curb, and he storms inside to find his father with a gun. He turns on the light, and his father shoots himself. This leads to one of the most cold-blooded quotes in the film from Morris toward the end, but we are not there yet.

Brown: The whole attempted suicide thing just reminded me of a Batman origin story scene. It got to the point where I thought one of the cops would put their coat on The Kid to comfort him. Then when he becomes The Bat, he’ll have a quip about how the cop was a hero for doing something as simple as putting a coat on a grieving child.

Froemming: The attempted suicide leads The Kid to smash his basement dungeon, and in the aftermath, he sees that his father (who was a musician) had wrote his music down, something he told his son he never did in a mocking way. So, instead of looking at his father’s music, The Kid goes back to Lisa and Wendy’s demo tape, which is an instrumental version of “Purple Rain.”

Brown: As The Kid is going through his grieving phase, we get one more performance by The Time, and our hero of the movie, Morris Day.

Yes, Morris Day is not without his flaws. He can be a jerk in this movie and acts like a deviant toward a 19-year-old Apollonia. But, he’s a much more redeemable character than The Kid. He handles business at First Avenue properly and doesn’t cut his shows short after one song like The Kid. And he’s the one that’s actually helping Apollonia fulfill her dream of rock stardom. Plus, he has Jerome.

Seriously, why were we supposed to root for The Kid in this movie? He’s a pompous jerk. Team Morris Day. All day, every day.

Froemming: Morris is such a creep in this movie. Thank goodness he had Jerome around to make him not completely disturbing. Also, The Kid’s music, moves and everything as a performer tops The Time. Every time.

Brown: At least if I’m going to a Time show, I’ll actually get my money’s worth instead of one song or a guy screaming into a microphone and humping speakers during “Darling Nikki” before storming off stage because reasons? Morris Day and The Time are consummate pros. The Kid is an unlikable primadonna.

Froemming: Yeah, “Darling Nikki” was a very odd performance, and quite the diss track. But, again, even when he is humping speakers and howling into a microphone, Prince tops The Time, every time. I’d rather see Prince perform one song than The Time perform a whole concert.

Brown: Prince, yes. The Kid, no.

Although, the performance of “Purple Rain” at the end was pretty damn good. The Kid can wail on guitar.

Rain 5

Froemming: OK, this is where the cold-blooded quote from Morris comes from. Everyone is backstage after The Time performs. The Kid, still in shock over seeing his father shoot himself in the head, is mentally preparing for the show. Morris, the monster, pops his head into The Kid’s dressing room and says “how’s the family” and howls with laughter. Seriously, that was some real ugly BS from Morris.

So The Kid does what he does best, he gives a hell of a performance, dedicated to his father, and blows everyone’s mind with “Purple Rain.” When he is finished, he thinks the stunned audience hated it and storms off, but the roars of cheering brings him back, proving he is the better showman, musician and person than Morris.

Brown: … before he surely blows it with another primadonna performance after the movie, I assume. At least Morris showed regret over his comment to The Kid. The Kid would have just rode off on his motorcycle for another “When Doves Cry” montage.

Meanwhile, Morris Day and The Time would go on to play the after-party for the Jay and Silent Bob movie.

Froemming: I think we hit every note here. I think it is time to Take Me with U over to recommendations.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?

Brown: Oh yeah, this movie was a lot of fun. The plot is dumb, the female lead is just not good and our hero is deeply, deeply flawed. But you’ll spend a good chunk of the movie bobbing your head with the amazing soundtrack. Plus, Morris Day and Jerome should win a lifetime achievement award from the Academy.

Froemming: I would for sure. This is not the greatest movie ever, but for the music performances alone I would recommend it. I actually thought Prince, Morris Day and Jerome were pretty decent actors here as well. It was cool seeing First Avenue in the early 1980s, which I assume was the last time the place cleaned its bathrooms. This movie not only put Prince on the map, but it also put the Minneapolis music scene and First Avenue on the map as well.

joedown purple rain

  • aschulke

    As someone who just spent the entire night – basically entire weekend – at First Avenue, it was hilarious to find this today. Good work.

  • Valerie

    One correction though–Apollonia didn’t get the cloud guitar at the pawn shop. She pawned her bracelet, and with that money, she went to purchase the guitar the Kid had been admiring.