Movie review: 'Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me'

CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER | Updated 7/24/2013

Non-revolutionary doc. tells story of power-pop greats.

Alex Chilton in "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me"
Magnolia Pictures

A lot of the best music documentaries will turn new audiences on to old, unsung, cult-loved pioneers. For reasons other than the fact that three of the four original members are sadly now deceased, “Nothing Can Hurt Me” isn’t the kind of movie to spark a big Big Star revival, but it might at least deepen the devotion of die-hard fans.

The band was formed by teen rock star Alex Chilton — singer of the Box Tops’ 1967 hit “The Letter” and namesake subject of a 1987 Replacements song (alas, Paul Westerberg only shows up to comment here via an old, short video interview). The Memphis rock band made three albums that flopped commercially, but are now essential to any indie-rock record nerd’s collection. And that’s essentially all there is to the movie.

Pieced together with scant archival footage and lots of new interviews — the latter mostly done/overdone by other semi-obscure musicians and middle-aged white guys who all look like record-store clerks — “Nothing Can Hurt Me” actually does hurt at times. It’s downright depressing hearing all the woes that befell the band, from typical record-business loops to their own disaffection to the downward spiral of the group’s co-leader, Chris Bell, who never quite got out from under Chilton’s shadow.

If you’re not already a fan, there’s not a lot to like (or dislike) about the band members personally on screen, or about all the details provided on songwriting and recording. On the other hand, all the making-of footage and scenes offering a taste of Memphis in the ’70s will probably thrill established Big Star lovers in a big way. We know all too well from the movie that it’s a very select group of people. (Rated PG-13.)

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me

⋆⋆½ out of four stars

Where: St. Anthony Main.