PEARL JAM TWENTY So much better than Pearl Jam Nineteen and Three-Quarters!

ALL OF THE INTERESTING THINGS that happened to Pearl Jam happened at the beginning. Rising out of the ashes of Mother Love Bone, the Seattle group found a simpatico frontman in the form of surfer dude Eddie Vedder, then rose to meteoric success during the grunge era and soon became characterized by their dour opposition to any trappings of fame. This early trajectory is examined at the beginning of Cameron Crowe's career-spanning documentary, Pearl Jam Twenty, which celebrates the past two decades of the band history. Its most interesting passages concern the band's genesis, especially the story of former Mother Love Bone frontman Andy Wood, whose heroin-related death cleared the way for Pearl Jam's formation.

The rest of the documentary ultimately feels self-serving, as the group hasn't really done much interesting in the past 15 years other than stay together. With Twenty's handheld archival video footage and a snapshot-style narrative structure, there's little for anyone other than diehard fans to sink their teeth into. I think Crowe—who, judging by his narration, is taking himself way to seriously here—intended for this to be a warts-and-all look, but he worships the band way too much for this to be anything other than a love letter.