Great Balls of Fire! (1989) Poster

User Reviews

Add a Review
63 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
Well done
vchimpanzee14 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
During World War II, young Jerry Lee is with his cousin sneaking into a dance hall in the black section of town. His cousin says that's the devil's music, and Jerry Lee agrees--but to him that's a good thing.

In the 1950's, Jerry Lee is performing that 'devil's music', and quite good at it. We see him go to Sam Phillips, the man who made Elvis a star. Will he be the next Elvis? He might very well be that talented. Phillips is very impressed, and his record becomes a hit.

Once Elvis goes into the army, Lewis has his chance to become as big as the King, if not bigger. What may have been his downfall, if this movie is accurate, is his marriage to his second cousin Myra. The English do not approve, and Americans aren't much more receptive.

Dennis Quaid does a great job, although it is apparently Lewis himself doing the singing. But Quaid pounds that piano and behaves wildly and shows a lot of passion and energy. I did enjoy the music, even though I usually like my music softer. It's amazing Lewis' music was banned by radio stations, because his songs get played on the station where I listen to Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Nat King Cole.

Winona Ryder is a delight, especially when Myra goes shopping after the wedding. Steve Allen looks surprisingly young playing himself, and he seems to be having a good time.

Elvis appears briefly several times, played by Michael St. Gerard, who portrayed the King in a 1990 TV bio. Elvis doesn't say much, but he does look the part. In one scene he and a girl are in bed together watching Lewis perform on TV, and the girl seems to want to do 'a whole lotta shaking'. Footage of others watching Lewis is shown (though they are probably watching something else). Included are a shocked Ward and June Cleaver.

'Patricia' by Perez Prado seems appropriate for the scene where Jerry Lee and Myra wonder whether to tell Myra's parents. The organ has the whimsical, playful quality that is such a big part of Myra's character, the trumpet section reflects Lewis' wild streak, and the trombones sound like Myra's father probably will after he gets the news.

While there were negatives in Lewis' life, this movie doesn't really make these look as bad as it could have. I found the movie entertaining as a whole.
12 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great music, good movie
pbhowmick22 June 2003
I am usually too lazy to put in my review comments. But when I read some of the negative comments about this movie, I ad to make a stand. I came across this movie accidentally and I'm glad I did. I think it is one of the unsung great films on music and musicians. Based on the true life of Jerry Lee Lewis, the somewhat eccentric rock and roll genius from the 50s this movie has got soul. Most of the movies about artists end up portraying them as somewhat crazy, egomaniacs, always on the edge of a break down. But this movie has a very warm and light hearted take on Jerry's life. Throughout his ups and down his character comes out as a likable one whom you want to fall in love with. There's not a moment in the film where you would feel sad or annoyed by Jerry. And for this the kudos go to both Dennis Quaid and the director. For the reviewers who have labeled Dennis's portrayal as over the top, you guys don't have a clue who and what Jerry was. Dennis has nailed the spirited and buoyant soul that Jerry Lee Lewis was. I think the people who didn't like this film wanted to see a more serious and toned down film. But this is a film about rock and roll, and there's no better way to make it then it has been donw here. I give it a 9 out of 10. Go watch this immensely entertaining film!
40 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Dennis channels Jerry Lee
Zen Bones27 May 2003
From some of the reviews here, I get the feeling many viewers of this film have never seen a Jerry Lee Lewis performance, much less have ever seen him offstage. Well, I can tell you, Dennis Quaid has the man down to pitch perfect. But it isn't just a great impersonation. Beneath every nuance and gesture is the frenzied heart and mind that probably would never have been able to function outside of the venue of rock and roll. Jerry Lee was the white man's Little Richard. He had rock and roll in his blood and he was BORN outrageous! He also made Elvis Presley look like a wind-up doll. `Great Balls of Fire' captures the essence of Jerry Lee's music, especially in the ‘musical' scene with the kids outside the high school. Rock and Roll breaks the rules, so why not have a film that breaks the rules by throwing in a musical number that obviously has no backup band? Those who have seen the high school rock and roll movies like `High School Confidential' and `Rock Rock Rock' will appreciate this spirited ode to them. Winona Ryder does a pretty good job for Winona Ryder, and it's fun to see John Doe (of the L.A. punk band `X') playing the somewhat stymied father of little Myra Gale. This film is not a biopic, it's a rock and roll movie, which is what the King of rock and roll (as far as I'm concerned) deserves. Is he a bad, bad man for marrying his thirteen-year-old cousin? Is it anyone's business? The marriage lasted longer then most marriages these days do. Even if it hadn't, I think people can be capable of respecting the artist and his music even if that artist's lifestyle offends them. That's this film's point of view, so no doubt, there will be viewers who will take offense. But to set the record straight, the whole world did not turn their back on Jerry Lee when the news got out about his marriage to his cousin. There were thousands of fans who actually embraced him more BECAUSE their parents and authorities hated him. And then there were just the fans (like myself) who will always love his music and audacious energy at the piano, and have decided to leave judgment of his personal life to whatever entity is in charge of such things.
36 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Immensely Entertaining & The Music Is Great
sddavis633 September 2001
An excellent job by director Jim McBride of putting Myra Lewis's book about the life of legendary rock and roll star Jerry Lee Lewis (her husband) on film.

Dennis Quaid gives an over the top performance (sometimes a bit too over the top; but, then again, this is Jerry Lee Lewis) as Lewis, arrogant and child-like, trying to deal with sudden fame, having to deal with the consequences of having married his thirteen year old cousin (Myra, who authored the book). Quaid was truly excellent in this role. Yes, the lip-synching was perhaps a bit too obvious at times, but for the sake of hearing some great music performed by the real Jerry Lee Lewis, that was an irritant I could easily put up with. The relationship between Lewis and Myra (Winona Ryder) is developed sensitively and tastefully by McBride. Humour is added by exploring the complex love-hate relationship between Lewis and his cousin, the evangelist Jimmy Swaggart (Alec Baldwin). There is also great irony, given what ultimately happened to Swaggart, as we listen to him lecturing Lewis about the dangers of taking the "gold-paved streets of rock and roll."

I really enjoyed this movie. Perhaps it was guilty of portraying everyone in it as a bit of a caricature, but it still seemed to offer an entirely believable story of Lewis's life. Well worth the watching.

9/10
31 out of 37 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Like the Killer,this movie left me Breathless!!!!!!
teenwolf9726 October 2000
This movie defines what Jerry Lee Lewis is all about:An enigma in all sense of the word. Dennis Quaid gives his finest performance,in this reviewer's humble opinion,as the Killer himself. The hair,the clothes,the accent are strike an uncanny resemblance. Winnona Ryder is absolutely marvelous as Myra. This movie depicts Lewis's life from his first hit,"Crazy Arms",to the scandal that almost shot his career down the toliet quicker than Elvis could eat a cheeseburger. What really makes this movie go is the soundtrack,including new performances by the Killer. It has humor,tons of drama,and some really revealing glimpses into the man,the myth,the legend that is Jerry Lee Lewis. I give this movie a 9 out of 10. It is with great sadness that I report that this movie is out of print and I pray to God that it will be re-released at the time of this writing. Get it if you can, because,WOOOOOOOOOOO,this movie's got the bull by the horns!!!!!!!
28 out of 34 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
4/10
Wonderful soundtrack - very disappointing film
agsconnolly11 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Despite all the great music, I was very disappointed with this film for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a very rough interpretation of real events, and in places extremely so. Certain key characters are portrayed incorrectly - notably Jack Clement and Sam Phillips - but most importantly it is the persona of Jerry Lee himself that is of concern. I certainly don't blame Dennis Quaid for this; his performance is suitably crazed and his on-stage antics are at times reminiscent of The Killer in his prime. But Quaid was clearly instructed to play the role more as a comic turn than as the troubled and conflicted man that Lewis was at the time. In fact, the whole film is positioned as some sort of over-the-top comedy, and some of the lowest points of Lewis's life are treated with, at best, a kind of dark slapstick.

There are also some more minor details which I personally disagreed with. In some ways, getting Lewis himself to re-record many of his classic hits was a good idea and added more immediacy to the 'live' performances than the old and familiar recordings would have done. However, in parts of the film where actual records of his songs were playing, I believe the originals should have been used to add authenticity. This raises the wider point of the fact that Dennis Quaid lip-syncs at all. Ever since Gary Busey, Don Stroud and Charles Martin Smith performed every song completely live in The Buddy Holly Story, anything less has been (rightly or wrongly) seen as some sort of cop-out in rock biopics. Lip-syncing has been used with minor success in films such as Ray, but there is an argument that says you should allow whichever actor you have entrusted to play a rock legend the opportunity to undertake the most important aspect of the character - the musical performance.

Another issue with the film is one of its main themes - the relationship between Jerry Lee and Myra, which is handled rather clunkily. The resolution between Lewis and Myra's father is sudden and unexplained, and the relationship somehow goes from being completely taboo to accepted and even normal in a very short time.

I'm not surprised that this film was disliked by the Killer himself. It makes light of extremely serious chapters in his life and misrepresents certain people who were dear to him. In my view, it is never a good idea to take a real story and tailor it for your own preference in the hope of entertaining people. Usually, the real story - and in this case, the real man - is much more interesting.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Goodness!! Gracious!! This movie is excellent
grinna13 March 1999
You don't have to be an old rocker to enjoy this movie which tells the story of the legendary rock pianist Jerry Lee Lewis. Dennis Quaid captures the excitement, oddities and mannerisms of this rock legend (almost an impersonation)

Quaid's performance is truly fantastic...........

The music is exciting - shaking your nerves and rattling your soul! I rate this movie 8.5 out of 10.
20 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
6/10
The Good & Bad Of 'Great Balls Of Fire'
ccthemovieman-127 September 2006
Being a fan of Jerry Lee Lewis since he began rockin' way back in the 1950s, this movie is a bit of a disappointment overall. The "bad" outweighs the "good" in here, story-wise.

GOOD - The music - naturally! There is some great music in here, featuring Dennis Quaid as the entertaining rockabilly-rock-country singer who surely will go down as the one of the great entertainers of his generation. Quaid lip-syncs the songs, but that okay. They sound better with Lewis doing the singing. The movie is colorful, entertaining and fast-moving. Wynona Ryder looks really cute, too.

BAD - There is a little bit too much emphasis on Lewis' brother, Jimmy Swaggart (Alec Baldwin) and, of course, they make him look like some fanatical religious preacher. Hey, I'm not a "charismatic" follower but there was an obvious bias in here and it wasn't necessary. Also, the writers actually made Lewis look a sympathetic victim for the criticism he got marrying his 13-year-old cousin! Only in the film-making world do we see poor morals given the thumbs-up. Sorry, Jerry Lee, but marrying your 13-year-old cousin warrants a bit of criticism! I later discovered this movie was based on a book by that the same "girl," so it's no wonder it makes that relationship look "legitimate."

The ending was not appropriate, either. Most of the characters in this film were exaggerated to the degree that they all look cartoonish. This movie could have been so much better with a more objective look at Jerry Lee's life and people in it.
26 out of 38 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Pretty good
Angi (hunkyguys85)5 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Regardless of a lot of the comments, I think this was a very good movie. I am a teenager who has heard the name "Jerry Lee Lewis" and of course his songs, but I was never interested in HIM. This movie intrigued me, and I'm ready to learn more about "The Killer." In fact, I REALLY hope I can read Myra's book sometime. Be warned, there may be some spoilers. The movie is pretty simple. Obviously a biography with his childhood cut off. You find out when he met Myra, and that's pretty much where the movie begins. You see them fall in love, and the troubles and perks after that. You see just how devoted to Myra Jerry Lee really was. That's the kind of love girls DREAM about! John Doe, Dennis Quaid, Winona Ryder, they were all great in the film. The only problem, would be the writing. They leave so much out! How EXACTLY are Jerry Lee and Myra related? I mean, I had to go to the International Jerry Lee Lewis website to find out! But heck, the two were in love. That was obvious in the film. Another thing, was the end. It left me wanting more! I wanted to find out more about the couple, more about everything. Overall, I'd say if you're open minded and willing for a few laughs, this is a great movie. ESPECIALLY if you like a great romance.
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
I completely disagree, I really loved this movie..
Riverfruit10 August 2004
Personally I disagree with the other user's comments as I saw this movie on TV a while ago and really enjoyed it. What makes it so interesting is the fact that someone would actually go ahead and marry their cousin who was only 13 years old.

This movie is pretty accurate and the acting and music is great.

Dennis Quaid's portrayal of the Killer is definitely one to watch.

His accent and facial expressions are priceless and Winona Ryder's Myra is sweet and believable. This movie offers a great insight into the personal life, music and career of J.L.L. A really enjoyable film I would highly recommend :-D
14 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
6/10
Shake My Nerves, Rattle My Brains
bkoganbing21 March 2009
Great Balls Of Fire is the title song of the greatest hit by legendary rock and roller Jerry Lee Lewis who couldn't quite handle the sudden fame and wealth thrust into his hands. It serves as a singularly appropriate title for a film about his life.

Jerry Lee is played by Dennis Quaid and the role is quite a stretch for him. I'm used to seeing an older and more mature Quaid in films like Swimmer and The Express. Still he does do very well capturing the essence of Lewis as I remember him as a lad.

The key to understanding Jerry Lee Lewis is in remembering that what he did in marrying those child brides was quite normal behavior from where he came from. Young girls in the more rural sections of the south frequently got married at 13 to 15 and the success rate wasn't any better or worse than in the more sophisticated parts of the country. I do well remember the scandalous stories back in the late Fifties that put a halt to Lewis's meteoric career.

Lewis came back and of course never got quite the same success, but music trends change in any event. He's still doing well on the nostalgic circuit, playing more for the love of it than the need for money. Playing that honky tonk piano and singing meant more to him than the trappings of success.

Winona Ryder got a big break in her career playing Lewis's notorious child bride Myra. Interestingly enough at the same time Lewis's stories were in the news, Errol Flynn at 48 escorting young adolescent Beverly Aadland was also making headlines. And Flynn was still married to Patrice Wymore.

Great Balls Of Fire is a good film, but really without an ending because Jerry Lee is still making music. May he continue to make it.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
4/10
Totally one-sided and not very pleasant but Dennis Quaid certainly hits it straight out of the park
policy13415 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Just re-saw this last night and to put it bluntly: "Style instead of substance". We can already guess that there had to be a lot more to Jerry Lee Lewis than what is depicted here. The Jerry Lee Lewis character in this movie is not depicted as a real human being for one minute throughout the entire hour and a half plus running time, but then again, all the other characters are only one pencil-stroke from being total cartoon characters.

Let's take the beginning. We see Jerry Lee and his cousin, Jimmy Swaggart sneaking over to the black jazz club and we see Jerry getting his inspiration. Might be possible. We see how the two cousins choose different paths in life (also possible). Then we cut to Jerry Lee playing the piano as an adult (now played by Dennis Quaid) and it's thrilling and a little scary. Cut to a scene where he first meets his second cousin, Myra. From then on the whole thing turns into a recap of certain events played out in a style befitting a news reel on high speed.

Not that the movie is not a little entertaining and it's great to hear new versions of the songs that made Jerry Lee. Alec Baldwin as Jimmy Swaggart is also a reason why you should at least take a look at this, an indicator of his greater successes in the years to come. Winona Ryder as Myra is the most one noty character in the film. She teases, she sobs, she chews gum and play coquettish and that's about it. There is never for a minute given a reason why she ended up being the third Mrs. Lewis and speaking of wives, where are the first two? That is why this really can't be classified as a biopic, but more of a inaccurate news reel. We see Jerry get his first song played on the radio, we see his second single going into the top ten, we see his third go to no. 1 and so on. Then comes the inevitable downfall. Absolutely, no basis in reality.

To conclude another minor quarrel: The movie takes place from '56 to '58 and still Myra says: "I am only 13" right up till the end.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
Quaid Plays a Monkey with a Nervous Disorder as Film Dies
Dale Houstman25 August 2005
I haven't seen this film in years, but the awful "taste" of Quaid's performance still lingers on my tongue. Some have commented on how Quaid has Jerry Lee Lewis "to a tee" but the fact is he only appears to have the most extreme stage Jerry in mind. Nobody acts that way all the time, and the performance comes off as hopelessly clownish, reducing Lewis to a buffoonish caricature. The nuances of a man's life are lost in the rubble of sheer over-acting.

The author of the book this is based on (Nick Tosches) is a good writer, who has written several fine musical bios (I particularly liked "Dino" on Dean Martin); in the books Tosches gives us a full human being, both separate from and involved in the "biz." Quaid's acting seems to imply that Jerry never acted like a human being. If people were like this, no one would bother to hang around them. As cartoons go, it is mildly amusing, but otherwise it is one of the most egregious, film-destroying performances I have had the "honor" of viewing. Terrible...
14 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great movie
huluhae23 May 2003
Great Balls of Fire! is beyond a doubt one of the best movies I have ever seen. It's entertaining, funny, and gives an up close and personal look at the greatest rock star of the 50s. No, not Elvis, I'm talking about Jerry Lee Lewis! Before the movie I had never even heard of him, now he is one of my all-time favorite performers. Trust me, I was 9 years old when this movie came out, and if a movie is so good a 9 year old will pipe-down and watch, then you know its a excellent movie. So do yourself a favor and rent or buy this fantastic movie.

ciao bella!
14 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
ridiculous
hkylw219 July 2005
This movie easily falls into the category of laughable, if not beyond that to actually insulting. I mean in what alternate universe did the filmmakers and studios think that this film would play? From beginning to end we bombarded with Quaids overacting and ridiculous facial expressions, laying on the "im a loose cannon" act a little thick. Another picking point I had with the movie was the lack of a realistic story of events that would make you grow to connect to a character. I mean in one scene where Lewis is playing in a bar before making it big there is this over the top, just completely absurd bar fight that every citizen in town is apparently a part of. Then Lewis begins to play his rendition of "A whole lot of shaking'" and everyone immediately forgets their differences and begins dancing wildly as if its the most normal thing in the world. These kind of scenes, of which there are numerous, coupled with the lack of depth in any of the characters led me to actual laughter. So all in all this film is not worth viewing for anyone not interested in mocking a filmmaker and his actors decisions for an hour and a half.
16 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
6/10
Dennis Quaid's low point
katykw-211 May 2011
This is quite possibly the worst performance of Dennis Quaid's career. The rubber-faced mugging he does neither looks like Jerry Lee nor does the phony "voice" he uses during this performance. His lip-syncing is always just a half-beat behind the music. Although Dennis had the wavy hair like The Killer, it wasn't long enough in the back to look like Jerry. His acting was a farce when he'd throw back his head in an apparent attempt to look arrogant. He failed. Alec Baldwin is also not very believable as Jimmy Swaggart (I actually knew the man in my youth). The storyline was okay but it could not overcome Quaid's awful acting. Especially at the airport when they are leaving England and he tells England to kiss his ass. Dennis, why did you sink so low?
9 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
Save your TIVO disk space
tbng14 June 2005
This movie has some of the worst acting I've ever seen. Dennis Quaid's performance was high school caliber. While it's difficult to portray an off-the-wall character like Jerry Lee Lewis, it can be done. Just ask Jamie Foxx (although Ray Charles had more depth to his personality and musicianship than Lewis ever dreamed of possessing). The Phillips brothers portrayal belonged in The Dukes of Hazzard, and Alec Baldwin playing Jimmy Swaggart is a bit like Donald Duck performing Shakespeare. When Robert Duvall played a country preacher, I bought it. Baldwin never made me believe a single word. Wynona Ryder's part was the best, and she was mediocre. (And can anyone figure out how she was 13 when Lewis met her and still 13 more than a year later?) Some checking on the Internet reveals the essential facts presented by the film were true, at least no more fouled-up than most Hollywood bio pics. This film did badly at the box office, and it should have.
10 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
3/10
A disaster in need of a remake!
Rob Kowal23 May 2012
It's hard to believe that this film at the time had Jerry Lee's blessing. (Although he later said he hated it.) He helped Quaid to learn his "pumping" piano style and Jerry Lee did the real singing much like Ray Charles did for "Ray". Quaid's performance is the worst of his career. He's nothing like Jerry Lee. Also Ryder looks too old to be his 13 y/o cousin. I think she was maybe 17 at the time.

Now Waylon Payne in "Walk the Line" doing his own singing on "Lewis Boogie" coupled with his wonderful rant in the car about how they're all going to hell... That captured more of the real Jerry Lee Lewis spirit then this whole film. They should get Payne and do a new Jerry Lee movie.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
5/10
An unrestrained talent gets the performance it requires...
moonspinner5514 January 2007
Speaking in hindsight, Dennis Quaid has recently gone on record as saying he should've taken the filmmakers' advice and brought his portrayal of real-life hellraising singer/piano player Jerry Lee Lewis down a notch or two. However, it's precisely Quaid's energy (and the accomplished 1950s period flavor) that keeps this otherwise undistinguished movie going. It's one-half rollicking musical-bio, and the other half an unsteady riches-to-rags tale. Jerry Lee finds his bombastic stage presence hard to shake off in life, rising to the top of the charts--and about to steal the rock 'n roll mantle from Elvis P.--until a marriage to his under-aged second cousin causes a backlash that lasted many years. Fashioned like a live-action cartoon, it's something of a drag when the filmmakers eventually pull out all the usual tried-and-tired clichés, boozy depression and angry rebellion. Winona Ryder, as Quaid's teen bride, struggles with a sketchy role; in fact, all the supporting characters are one-dimensional compared to Lewis. Quaid (who lipsyncs to the vocals but played his own piano) rides roughshod over the whole shaky enterprise. ** from ****
7 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
The piano man
blanche-211 December 2007
Dennis Quaid struts around like a rooster in "Great Balls of Fire," a 1989 biopic about Jerry Lee Lewis, one of the great entertainers. Discovered by Sam Phillips, the man who discovered Elvis and Johnny Cash, Lewis came up the ranks quickly and was poised to become the King of Rock 'n' Roll when Elvis went into the Army. But the scandal that broke when it was revealed he was married to his 13-year-old cousin Myra (Winona Ryder) and was in fact a bigamist - which today would be shrugged off - just about ruined his career. Soon he was prone to violence on and off stage and imbibing in alcohol.

I have always loved Jerry Lee Lewis' music, but the only thing I knew about him was that he married his cousin - so that will show you where all the publicity was focused. I had no idea that Jimmy Swaggert (played here by Alec Baldwin) was also his cousin. I was struck by the qualities he had in common with Elvis - they both were highly-charged performers with so much energy a stage couldn't hold them, both completely original, natural talents inspired by music they heard in their communities, and both were discovered by Sam Phillips. What each one was most of all was just like one of the kids that he sang to, who could pulsate, dance and let their hormones run wild with the music. Lewis remains today an electrifying performer with an unmistakable sound. His high gear "Great Balls of Fire," "Breathless," "High School Confidential," and of course, "Whole Lotta Shaking' Going' On" are unmatched.

Now, how accurate was this film? Jerry Lee himself claims he never acted the way Dennis Quaid portrayed him in his life, though others say Quaid was right on. It's a little like Scottish people hearing a Scottish burr on an actor and saying, we don't talk like that when they do. I will quibble with the depiction of Sam Phillips as a snake oil salesman who, according to this script, "lost Elvis." Phillips didn't lose Elvis - his record company was too small to promote Elvis as he needed to be promoted, and Phillips badly needed the money Elvis' contract would bring. Elvis, Vernon and Gladys Presley thought they had it good - no one dreamed Elvis could accomplish what he did - so Sam Phillips could have kept Elvis with Sun for a longer period of time, but rather than stifling Presley's career, he let him go.

Quaid does an excellent job as a thrilling performer who perhaps isn't the most likable person off stage - in fact, might be a little sleazy - and Ryder captures the teenage silliness beautifully. Baldwin doesn't get to do much but proselytize.

The most interesting thing about "Great Balls of Fire" is its relevance today. Rock 'n' Roll was perceived as the way to complete degradation for teenagers and the performers were servants of the devil. Rap music is viewed the same way today. With rock 'n' roll, the road to degradation was a sexual one - swinging those hips and getting all charged up could only mean trouble. Today, with rap, it's the message of violence against women and attitudes towards them, the use of violence and foul language. In between, we had the schools ruling that no one could have a Beatles haircut. Maybe someday it will occur to somebody that many things can destroy a generation - war and drugs being two - but music doesn't seem to be one of them.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Dennis Quaid Good As Lewis
funky_cherry863 July 2005
Jerry Lee Lewis (Quaid) was a wild young man who moved to Memphis in 1957 to start his musical career he moved in with his cousin J.W. Brown (Doe) and his family. It was there that he met 13 year old Myra (Ryder) who back then loved Elvis Presley. After having his first song Crazy Arms played on the radio by Sam Phillips (Wilson) Jerry became a sensation with other hits such as Whole Lotta Shaking Going On, Great Balls Of Fire and High School Confidential. A romance developed between Jerry Lee & Myra they were so much in love that they got married in secret, however controversy struck when on a tour in England a reporter found out about the marriage causing fans to accuse him of being a cradle robber, child molester and pervert. His career went downhill after that. In real life Jerry Lee Lewis's career would not start again until six years later in 1970 after thirteen years of marriage Jerry Lee Lewis divorced Myra Gale Brown. Great Balls Of Fire is a good biography that depicts the life of a tortured singer who had numerous loves and losses 8/10 Stars
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
6/10
You had to be there
Pamsanalyst12 October 2004
to understand this film. I'd be watching Bandstand and I would hear my Dad getting out of the car. If Jerry Lee, or Little Richard for that matter, were playing I turn it off so I did not have to hear my Father rant about the music.

Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee looks like he was dragged out of an audition for Amadeus, with that pompadour on his head; and his acting is over the top, but Jerry Lee was the same person as a performer. Oddly, in my recollection, the only song in the film that is permitted to be sung to completion is "Lucky Old Sun" which Jerry Lee belts at this home as his world is caving in about him.

It's not the movie I have to have in a collection, but if it is on cable when I am surfing, I will stop and watch every time.
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
4/10
Just to see Winona Ryder
MarioB20 August 2000
Dennis Quaid is tryin' hard to prove us that Jerry Lee Lewis was a dumb guy. And he's doing too much to prove it. TV sequences are very good, like a photocopy of old black and white footages. Music is fine too, because Mr. Lewis himself is singing. But the rest is just Hollywood B-Movie style, with the fifties Happy Days complex. I think the only good thing in this movie is to see young Winona Ryder.
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
2/10
Worst acting I have ever seen
suplexx19 December 2005
It's really just terrible. Quaid overacts more than Shatner. The part where Elvis walks in and says "You can have it all" just kills anything that might have been good in this movie that's bad enough as it is. Drug use was completely snow coated, the only thing that had anything to do with his life was the bit about him wedding his cousin. Quaid also looks nothing like Lewis and has dark roots and eyebrows. I wish this could be re-made in the future with someone who doesn't try so hard. A bigger budget wouldn't hurt and maybe more about his actual life. I was very, very disappointed in Quaid. Don't watch this movie or you will be too.
9 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
1/10
It can get worse than this, but not by much
david-34513 February 2002
Great Balls of Fire is the movie you show to someone you really, really hate. It is absolute torture of the highest rank and is probably used by minions of a foreign power to extract info from captured intelligence agents. I've enjoyed some of Dennis Quaid's performances in the past, but he goes totally over the top in this film. He doesn't so much cross the line, he pole vaults over it, then comes back to jump over and over again. He struts and mugs as if on some incredibly bad acid trip. It's one of those rare performances where you wish you could enter the film and beat the man within an inch of his life for doing something so truly awful. Was he desperate to win a Golden Raspberry or some other award for bad acting? That's the only conclusion I can come up with. Thank you Dennis, you gave us a bad performance for the ages. Where was the director to reign in this guy?

The opposite end of the extreme is Winona Ryder, she of the plastic features and plastic acting. I came across a review of her acting style that compared her to a wax dummy. That was of course an insult to wax dummies all over the earth, all of whom could have brough more humanity to the role of Jerry's underage cousin/wife. This brings up the film's mixed up message, that being it is 100% okay to marry your own cousin and have a child by the union. I fail to see what is so "okay" about that, but it looks as though Hollywood thinks that underage incest is hunky dory. Talk about "family values."

Another problem is the format. Is it a stright forward re telling of Lewis' life, or is it a musical? I'm not talking about the music, I'm talking about the truly weird scene where Jerry drives up to the school, starts to belt out a tune and everyone starts to dance like it was Broadway musical in search of a Tony. Fantasy and reality are thrown together in a mix that does not work. But who really cares? I don't. And neither should you. You can't get back the minutes of life you would waste on this film. So don't waste your time, it's too precious for something this misguided and poor.
9 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews