**1/2 (out of four)
Nearly 20 years after losing touch, Henry (J.K. Simmons) and Helen Sawyer (Cara Seymour) reunite with their son Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci) after he’s diagnosed with a brain tumor that prevents him from forming new memories. So while mom and dad try to reconnect with their son in 1986, their 35-year-old only child remembers nothing past 1970.
The buzz: “Music” is based on Dr. Oliver Sacks’ essay, “The Last Hippie,” about a real-life patient very similar to Gabriel, who grows up with a love of the Grateful Dead and passionate feelings about Vietnam. At the least, “The Music Never Stopped” is certainly more than your average story about a hippie’s devotion to the cause.
The verdict: Gabriel has virtually no short-term memory, but put away the “50 First Dates” comparisons. “The Music Never Stopped” succeeds on the shoulders of Simmons (“Up in the Air,” “Juno”), who’s fantastically moving when Henry familiarizes himself with his son’s favorite music as the lone remaining way to connect with him. While Gabriel swoons over songs he loves, Pucci’s mannered performance does the movie no favors; he’s a long way away from the revealing work of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young man with a brain injury in “The Lookout.” “The Music Never Stopped” also could say more about music therapy, while the Vietnam-and-music-career-based rift between father and son feels second-hand. Ultimately, though, what matters is the way Henry, like my dad, used to test his son about music and still recognizes the bond formed over a song, a band or a concert.
Did you know? Gabriel wonders if Count Basie bites people like Count Dracula. Would this help or hurt the ever-dwindling jazz market?
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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