Wednesday, March 4, 2020


by Adam Thas
1990’s Graffiti Bridge answers the question, “What if the "Batdance" video was 90 minutes long?”

Written, directed, and produced by Prince, Graffiti Bridge was Prince’s third and final venture into movies and by far his weakest. Graffiti Bridge is the sequel to Purple Rain, where Morris (Morris Day) and The Kid (Prince) are competing owners of night clubs in the mythical town of Seven Corners. Morris wants to own all the night clubs so he is trying to win Prince’s club in an unofficial battle of the bands, and at the same time is also trying to strong-arm George Clinton into selling his club. While this is happening, a sexy angel that lives under a bridge is sent by God to get Morris and The Kid to stop arguing. At least I think that’s what she’s trying to do. This movie is so crazy that I struggle on how to explain it. The best I’ve been able to come up with is it’s like if Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies met 2003’s From Justin to Kelly. If you haven’t gathered, it’s bad. Like, it’s so bad it almost ruins Purple Rain for me (notice I said “almost”). As a huge Prince fan it pains me to say that, but it’s so terrible it makes Under the Cherry Moon look like a masterpiece.
In a week where we are celebrating the movies of 1990, I’m not celebrating Graffiti Bridge because it’s good, I’m celebrating the fact that it exists at all. When watching Graffiti Bridge, it’s clear that Prince has something to say and wants to say it. I wrote during 1984 week about Purple Rain and how Prince captured lightning in a bottle with a great movie that we will probably never see the likes of again. Prince’s motivations are the same as they were with Purple Rain: he wants to plug his music and that of the other artists signed to his label. It worked once, it would stand to reason that it should be able to work again. If Prince stopped there and got the right director, or had someone edit his screenplay, I think there is a version of Graffiti Bridge that works.

The problem, though, is Prince being overconfident that he was the reason Purple Rain worked, and not the hundreds of other things that contributed to it. He’d seen plenty of music videos being made, he’d already directed one movie, so he decided to direct Graffiti Bridge. The only person who could possibly have told Prince directing was a bad idea would have been a producer, but Prince is also producing. Top to bottom, everyone involved with this movie owes Prince something, from the acting gig to the people on his label. No one involved was telling him “no.” The very unique bubble that we then get is the movie equivalent of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Graffiti Bridge is completely, 100%, all Prince. Every thought, every idea that is Prince in 1990 is on that screen for us to see. As a fan, that is incredibly fascinating to me.
What Prince knows, the movie works at doing. The music is great, the dancing is great, the overall performances are slick music videos. Unfortunately, those things are held together by a bunch of nonsense. The settings are all stale interior sets, lit with a multitude of different colored lights made to look like a cheap version of the Batman set. The Kid is criticized by Morris because his music is too “Gospel” and won’t hit. The comedy bits are unfunny and misogynistic. These are the things Prince thought were cool; these were his ideas, the jokes he thought were funny. Prince had succeeded at that point in almost every venture had attempted in his career. He put together the best movie he knew how to do with confidence that Graffiti Bridge was going to succeed as well. Well, confidence and ideas can’t make up for Prince’s inability to make a movie. There is no barrier between Prince’s ideas and what ends up on the screen. How many movies exist like that? Not many. Graffiti Bridge becomes this odd portrait of the type of music, humor, and style of Prince. Graffiti Bridge is deservedly forgettable as a movie, but as a window into the thoughts and ideas of one of the greatest musicians that has ever lived? Well, that is something that should be celebrated.


  1. I finally got around to watching this last year. And yeah it's terrible... however it got me thinking what a one of a kind Prince was. I mean seriously what musician out there today or even back then would make a movie to accompany their album? And write, direct and star in it too?

    In the end I sort of enjoyed it for being so... Prince. His good and his bad parts.

    I don't want to be one of those commenters but I really miss the guy and even though I'm sure some good stuff will come out of "the vault" in the forthcoming years it's not quite the same as when he was alive.

    Genuine question: which other musician or band would you love to see a movie from? My vote is Bruce Springsteen doing a movie of Born to Run, starring himself and directed by Martin Scorsese.

    1. Yeah, it's got this odd charm with how crazy "Prince" it is, but it's so hard to get past the weird nonsense. Music movie? Personally I always thought a movie about Layne Staley and Demri Parrott with the backdrop of the beginnings of grunge in Seattle would be pretty great. Honestly though, I don't think it get's much better than yours.

  2. In truth the concept was going to be that this was going to be a sequel featuring THE TIME, and Prince wouldn't even appear in it. The powers that be warned him about doing that, and Prince struggled with the project wildly revising the script to include himself... thus the messy results.

    It was all shot on soundstages at Paisley Park while he was working on music and side projects for other artists. It was meant to rebrand his new band (New Power Generation) and the stable of people he was forseeing as his core artists moving forward. Too bad it wasn't better!

    I actually think it would totally work better if it were simply a bunch of music videos without ANY plot... it's the stupid script (or lack of) that gets in the way. The mystical angel stuff is never clear, and everyone comes off as sort of dumb. It was proof he didn't live in the real world.

    If you tour Paisley Park they have an entire room dedicated to the production... it has costumes and such. When I listen to the album it seems so much deeper than what ended up on screen... pity....

    1. I didn't know it was supposed to be just The Time! It's very VERY clearly a set, and a small, shitty set at that. I looked at Prince's club at one point and wondered how people fit in it.