Back in 1986, The Beastie Boys released Licensed to Ill to raving reviews. Rolling Stone magazine printed the now-famous headline, “Three Idiots Create a Masterpiece” and it went on to become the best-selling rap album of the 1980s and the first rap album to go #1 on the Billboard album chart, where it stayed for five weeks. It was Def Jam’s fastest-selling debut record to date, going on to sell over five million copies. The first single from the album, “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)”, reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the video (directed by Ric Menello) became an MTV staple.
Fast forward twenty-five years and Adam Yauch (better known as MCA from the seminal hip-hop trio) arrived at Sundance in 2011 with his short film Fight for Your Right Revisited, a twenty-minute showcase for a handful of tracks off the Beastie Boys’ final album The Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2 (an album originally slated for release in 2009 but was shelved when Yauch was diagnosed with having cancer).
The short tells a fictitious story of what happened to the Beastie Boys following the events of their 1987 music video of the same name. The 20-minute film is a hybrid of over-the-top vignettes and dialogue-heavy slapstick humour that burst with comedic force, thanks to the talents of some of Hollywood’s most reliable improv talents. As the Beastie Boys themselves, Elijah Wood (Ad-Rock), Danny McBride (MCA) and Seth Rogen (Mike D) channel their real-life counterparts effectively well as the trio spend most of the running time terrorizing the streets of New York.
The films cluttered with a who’s who of other celebrity cameos: Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Steve Buscemi, Ted Danson, Rainn Wilson, Will Arnett, Rashida Jones, Martin Starr, David Cross, and Jody Hill all make an appearance as does Chloe Sevigny and Maya Rudolph who appear as drugged out “Metal chicks” taking whippets and dropping liquid acid. Meanwhile, Clint Caloury shows up playing the famed music producer who as an A&R man discovered the band and Orlando Bloom cameos while sporting a vintage Def Jam jacket in homage to the group’s former record label.
The highlight comes during the climax when the Beasties come across their future selves (Jack Black as MCA, Will Ferrell as Mike D and John C. Reilly as Ad-Rock) who arrive on the scene in a Back to the Future-esque DeLorean. The two trios strife over who’s really who and settle the dispute during an old-school dance-off. Alas, the short wraps up with the real Beastie Boys masquerading as police officers and shoving the other men into a paddy wagon before driving off. Que a title card that reads, “To be continued. Check back in 25 years.”
Fight for Your Right Revisited is everything it promised to be: a madcap, star-filled extra-long music video, whose only rhyme and reason to exist is to act as a companion piece to the original 1986 B-Boy anthem and a promotional stunt for their 8th studio album.
From party anthems to politically-charged songs, the group’s sense of musical adventure was still alive after all those years. Though not as good as we hoped it would be, Fight for Your Right Revisited was a genius marketing movie and remains an enjoyable spectacle for fans of the Brooklyn act.
- Ricky D