On a February weekend in 1964, mobs of adoring teenagers stood outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan hoping to get a glimpse of their idols, the Beatles. Young girls collapsed in the streets and youth of all stripes vied with each other to get tickets for the Fab Four's upcoming TV performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show."
I Wanna Hold Your Hand is a zany, at times insightful, and always hilarious look at that watershed media event in pop history. Two twenty-six-year-olds, director Robert Zemeckis and co-screenwriter Bob Gale, have recreated the hysteria of Beatles worship. Through their clever storyline, they have conveyed the pandemonium of that unforgettable weekend.
We accompany six New Jersey high school students, each with a very different agenda, on a trek to New York City. Grace (Theresa Saldana) wants to make a name for herself in photojournalism by getting exclusive shots of the Beatles. She convinces Larry (Marc McClure), the undertaker's son, to drive them to the Plaza Hotel in one of his father's limousines. Rosie (WendieJo Sperber) is the Beatles buff in their group; she is determined to get tickets to the Sullivan show by winning one of the radio sponsored contests. Janis (Susan Kendall Newman) wants to use the media event around the Beatles appearance to dramatize her crusade against the commercialism of pop music. Pam (Nancy Allen) is seeking nothing more than a good time before she elopes with her boyfriend. And Tony (Bobby Di Cicco), the class greaser, goes along for the ride just to be with Janis.
The film abounds with wild slapstick sequences. Some of the best are the escapades of Rosie and her newfound friend Richard "Ringo" Klaus (Eddie Deezen), another exeprt on Beatles lore. Ironically, it is Pam, the most neutral person in the group, who blunders her way into the Beatles' hotel suite while they are out. She bows in homage to their instruments, coffee cups, and hairbrush, giving these objects all the reverence usually reserved for holy relics. In another key scene, a thirteen-year-old (Christian Juttner) is hauled away by his father to a barbershop. The director films the haircutting as a parody of a death house ritual. These incidents and others make I Wanna Hold Your Hand an interesting social document as well as thoroughly entertaining film fare.