Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Seagull" is a sight for sore ears

Cleveland Press December 28, 1973

"Jonathan Livingston Seagull" is playing here. Allegory; general audiences. Running time: 98 minutes.

"Jonathan Livingston Seagull." as a best-selling novel, is a parable about a seagull that offered a simplistic pseudo-religious-philosophy but was reasonably well written.

"Jonathan Livingston Seagull" as a movie is a lovely to-look-at 30-minute nature film that happens to run 98 minutes. It takes less time to read the book than watch the movie.

It has a soundtrack that should be thrown out, allowing the audience to concentrate on the pretty pictures.

The soundtrack has a score composed and sung by Neil Diamond, a performer with a vast number of fans. The music is mediocre and monotonous in spite of its pretentious sounding arrangements.

His lyrics, when they can be understood which fortunately is not often, are unimaginative and equally pretentious.

In fact, pretentiousness in general is the undoing of the film. Too often a "sanctus" or a "kyrie" is sung repeatedly in case you missed the point that a particular scene deals with HEAVEN.

Adapter Hall Bartlett had a good idea when he did the movie with real seagulls. The film is really amazing in its shots of gulls in action against a multitude of vistas -- calm waters, crashing waves, cloud filled skies. Bartlett has more than adequately visualized the book on film

But even here he and author Richard Bach, who co. scripted the movie, have become heavy handed.

Too much is made of the mystical, too strong is the Jonathan -- Jesus parallel- restoring the crippled gull, admonishing his followers not to let them " ... spread any silly rumors about me" repeated references to the "son of the great gull."

Jonathan has also been allowed to go Hollywood with an implied romantic interest in the form of a gull called Maureen.

And those fast dives from a high altitude -- will Jonathan pull out in time? Shades of those old movie about test pilots! There are times when "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" is an aviation movie with feathers.

Much of the soundtrack is given over to dialog so that we can hear the thoughts of Jonathan, his conversations with others, the pronouncements of the elders.

It is all pretty bad and it is delivered by performers who sound as though they couldn't make the grade in an amateur theatrical. Jonathan speaks in a whisper and Maureen in an English accent.

It would have been better if everyone had kept quiet and allowed the movie to speak for itself.