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‘The Beach Boys’ Review: How to Make Good Vibrations

The wholesome ocean-breeze look of the Beach Boys could make the group a punchline if it weren’t for their sweet sunshine sound. The origins of their intricate harmonies undergird “The Beach Boys,” a Disney documentary directed by Frank Marshall and Thom Zimny that notes obstacles in the band’s career but mostly tries to keep the good vibrations going.

Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson grew up in a musical household in Hawthorne, Calif., and eventually pooled their ample talents with a cousin, Mike Love, and a friend, Al Jardine. As told through a patchwork of polite interviews and mostly mundane clips from performances, the rise of their music was fueled by four-part harmonies, surf culture and entrancing orchestration not unlike Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound.

Brian, who hated touring, was the band’s homebody musical mastermind, and he could imbue their pop with an outsider’s moods, while the Wilsons’ father, Murry, put on the pressure as their manager. Snippets from “Pet Sounds,” their landmark 1966 album, never fail to rejuvenate the movie. But after a while, you get the sense of a band that stopped growing, though the movie traces a fruitful competitive streak with the Beatles.

Any deviations from the film’s obligatory timeline tour are very welcome, like a mortifying studio recording of Murry holding forth, and it’s a treat to hear the esteem for Brian among the Wrecking Crew, the storied group of session musicians. And for the pop romantics among us, the Beach Boys can still cast a spell with those four little words: Wouldn’t it be nice?

The Beach Boys
Rated PG-13 for drug material and brief lapses into unsunny language. Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes. Watch on Disney+.

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