Those songs. The albums. The music of the Beatles is unforgettable.

Or is it?

That’s part of the premise of “Yesterday,” a new romantic comedy with this fantasy element: A global power outage happens, a young man hits his head in the dark, and when he awakens and the power comes back on, he’s the only person in the world who’s ever heard of the Beatles.

He scours the internet, but no Beatles. Only beetles.

It’s an amusing premise, and a pair of talented Brits in director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and writer Richard Curtis (“Love Actually”) seem to be an inspired pair to create something that many who have posed and sang in front of their mirrors have dreamed.

What if such a thing happened, and now, you could make the music of the Beatles your own, taking all the credit and fame and fortune that came with it?

No one will mistake “Yesterday” for a classic like the song, but as a one-joke movie, it does induce some laughs from this gimmick, and it does create some sweet moments.

And, of course, it has a killer soundtrack.

Film newcomer and English actor Himesh Patel (a veteran of several years of BBC’s popular “EastEnders” TV soap opera) takes the lead role as Jack, a struggling singer-songwriter.

Jack’s so-called manager is his friend Ellie, a sweet-natured teacher who loves his funny pre-fame tunes he writes. The lovely Lily James plays this woman who loves Jack, a fact that is obvious to all but Jack.

The characters in “Yesterday” aren’t the brightest bulbs to begin with, and when Jack begins to sing Beatles’ tunes and everyone marvels at “Jack’s new songs,” they seem even dimmer.

When those songs travel beyond England and Jack quickly grows into an international phenomenon, we can’t help but wonder: When will he be found out?

Or when will his conscience no longer allow him to claim credit for the work of others? Which will happen first?

Unfortunately, “Yesterday” is mostly about the filmmakers/fanboys neglecting to develop this idea fully, or their characters, in favor of people spending the movie saying, “These songs are amazing!”

We all know that already. You don’t have to sell us on that fact.

And another thing that bugged me: I realize we all want to hear Beatles songs, but why depict Jack as so prolific, writing what feels like one “masterpiece” a day?

“Let it Be” one day, “A Day in the Life” the next. It was frustrating enough to make me want to twist and shout in my seat.

A gimmick that does work is the employment of hitmaker Ed Sheeran, playing himself as a proud songwriter who must meet Jack, this remarkable new performer.

Sheeran proves himself capable in one comedic moment after another. This talented guy could develop an acting career if he wants one.

But then there’s Kate McKinnon, playing a stereotypical record company agent guiding Jack’s exploding career who packages musicians’ songs, shorts them of money that they’re due and works to make them compromise their artistic ideals.

She overplays the role as a lark and can’t be taken seriously, unless she’s trying to tell us, “This movie is a silly situation, so I’m going to be silly.”

And what did they do to James as Ellie?

They made her insecure character’s hair a frizzy brown mess, dressed her in hideous frocks and have her constantly scrunching up her face. She never looked this frumpy in the scullery-maid scenes of “Cinderella.”

What really works beyond the Beatles catalog — and what really makes them sing — is the work of Patel.

This film newcomer is a talented actor and singer, and his heart and soul transcend his having to mostly veer between looks of frustration and “I can’t believe this is happening to me” reactions.

There is a moment that happens to Jack, an encounter near the end of the film (I can’t give it away), that is meaningful, emotional and completely perfect.

I dried my eyes and thought: Why didn’t we have more of those kinds of moments that hammer home what John, Paul, George and Ringo really mean to us?

There’s an idea there — that Jack performing these songs for the world is a good thing because a world without the music of the Beatles is a world that’s not as good as it could be.

Now, that is truly unique.

“Yesterday” is no revolution, er, revelation, but with songs and sweetness, you leave the movie feeling as though love, and the Beatles, is all you really need.

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Michael Smith


Twitter: @michaelsmithTW

Scene Writer

Michael writes movie reviews and features, interviews Oklahoma performers and covers entertainment events for the Scene and Weekend sections of the Tulsa World. Phone: 918-581-8479