Here are some facts you might like to know up front: I'm not that big of a Beach Boys fan. I think they were a great "singles" band at the first part of their career and I still like those earlier hits. I never bought into the whole "Brian is a genius" statement. All of Brian Wilson's later work just left me scratching my head and wondering what the big deal was.
On October 19, 1968 (remember The Beach Boys had become somewhat passé at this point in their career) I saw The Beach Boys in concert at Greenville Memorial Auditorium. It is one of my two biggest disappointments in concert going (I'll get to the other some day). They only sold a few thousand tickets in the 7500 seat hall and Mike Love acted like an ass and let it be known he was unhappy with the small crowd. I find this quite amusing since Love had just gotten into Transcendental Meditation earlier that year. Guess he hadn't perfected his mantra yet! Anyway, they did a 30 minute set and refused to do an encore.
Now you have an idea of where I'm coming from when I watched two different movies about The Beach Boys. First a biopic: Summer Dreams: The Story of The Beach Boys (SD) based on the Steve Gaines book "Heroes and Villains: the True Story of The Beach Boys" and second the documentary: Endless Harmony: The Beach Boys Story.
I liked the fact that SD lets the viewer know right up front that the movie added dialogue and created scenes, plus that the music in the film was not sung by The Beach Boys. At least that's giving you some sense of what's in store for you in this film. The first part of Summer Dreams is stronger than the second part and I think a lot of that has to do with facts. Since the first part is concerned with formation of the band and how they achieved success, it's much easier to base this part of SD on noted and known events. Although I'm sure, like any biopic, the facts have been condensed or re-arranged to fit into the short time span of a TV movie. In the second part of SD, we get more into the personal side of the Beach Boys and SD struggles some with showing the downside of success - especially Brian's drug use and mental illness and Dennis' drug use and philandering. Even though, SD may not be completely accurate, it still didn't shy away from some of the truths, even including a brief segment about Dennis getting tangled up with Charles Manson.
The movie starts with the accidental drowning of "down on his luck" Dennis Wilson and flashes back to show us how he got to that point in his life. SD mainly focuses on the relationship between brothers Brian (Greg Kean) and Dennis (Bruce Greenwood) with Carl (Bo Foxworth) playing only a secondary role in the movie, as do Mike Love (Casey Sander) and Al Jardine (Andrew Myler). Murry Wilson (Arlen Dean Snyder), their father, is shown to be a tough S.O.B. and from what I have read this is somewhat of an accurate portrayal of him. Man! it's no wonder the Brothers Wilson had such problems, because it appears Murry's terrible child rearing skills may have been a cause of Brian eventually becoming mentally ill (although drugs probably added some to this), Dennis being a wild child rebelling against his upbringing and although we don't get a full grasp on Carl, it appears he became withdrawn and that food was his friend.
Endless Harmony: The Beach Boys Story (EH) mainly focuses on the music and only briefly mentions any personal or band problems. It was interesting to see events in EH that correlated with the fictional events shown in SD. The main problem with EH is that is became quite repetitious hearing how great all the Beach Boys music was over and over. I would rather have seen a documentary that was more accurate and combined some true details that were incorporated in the fictional SD instead of just the mostly white washed version that is EH. Of course EH was authorized, so I imagine that The Beach Boys had a good bit of control over the final product. Two things that I definitely did come away with from watching both SD and EH, Mike Love was a much more integral and important part of The Beach Boys than I had imagined, and Mike Love must have the worst sense of fashion, since he appears in one sartorial disaster after another.