It’s about a British rock band, but it often has all of the spontaneity and edge of an “American Idol” song-and-dance production number.

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” the story of Queen and its lead singer, Freddie Mercury, borders on the unintentionally comical.

It’s about a British rock band, but it often has all of the spontaneity and edge of an “American Idol” song-and-dance production number.

That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining. It’s just superficial.

It’s as if director Bryan Singer (“The Usual Suspects,” four “X-Men” movies) and screenwriter Anthony McCarten (“Darkest Hour”) started with a checklist of obvious scenes to create a kind of highlight reel of Mercury’s life, and just plodded along, checking them off, one by one.

Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek) clashes with his Parsi parents, particularly his father, who doesn’t understand his flamboyant, independent son.


Farrokh meets guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) on the same night they’ve just lost their lead singer, and does an impromptu audition in a parking lot to join the band that will become known as Queen

Check. (Even though this clearly is merging events for the convenience of plot pacing.)

Farrokh announces he’s now Freddie Mercury!


“Let’s record an album!”


“Let’s get experimental!”


“We’re going on tour!” (Followed by montage: “We love you, Portland” … “We love you, Pittsburgh!”)


And so on, like the standard clash-with-authority scene, in this case in which a record company executive battles with the band over putting out the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a single because he insists it’s too long, too operatic, too unusual to be played on radio. He’s wrong, of course. Also, in a bit of stunt-casting, he’s played by a heavily made-up Mike Myers, whose movie comedy “Wayne’s World” made “Bohemian Rhapsody” a monster hit for a second time. This “clever” in-joke only points out the artificiality of the scene further.

Later, we get the standard band debauchery and ego clashes and breakup. And there’s the climactic triumph.

Of course, there are aspects of the story more specific to Mercury. (Spoiler alert.) Freddie meets girl (Lucy Boynton of John Carney’s “Sing Street”). Freddie falls in love with girl. Freddie marries girl. Freddie meets boys. Freddie discovers he likes being with boys. Freddie has to give girl bad news.

And, later, Freddie contracts AIDS.

So what we have here is a tale of tragedy (Freddie’s demise) and triumph (a group of misfits playing songs like “We Are the Champions” for their misfit fans, the group’s legendary performance at the Live Aid concert in 1985). Tragedy and triumph? “A Star Is Born,” anyone?

Malek has the Mercury look down (complete with prominent overbite) and the singer’s stage presence in the concert scenes – not an easy task.

He portrays Freddie as someone who took risks to become the person he was born to be – a star – and paid a heavy price for it.

But, as with the film, you’re left wishing Malek went deeper. By the end of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” you still don’t feel like you got to know the real Freddie Mercury.