VH1's 'Elton' strolls down star's yellow brick road
Wednesday, June 11th 2008, 4:00 AM
ELTON JOHN: ME, MYSELF AND I. Thursday at 9 p.m., VH1
"Elton John: ME, MYSELF AND I," which gets its first American showing on VH1 tomorrow night, turns out to be something of a vanity project.
That's fitting. In fact, with Elton John, it's redundant.
As he would be the first to acknowledge.
Confidence, he remarks at one point during this production, has never been a problem for the boy who was born Reginald Dwight and grew up to become the unlikeliest rock star this side of Elvis Costello.
He looks like someone you'd meet behind the counter at the auto parts store. Only his skill at creating hummable melodies, combined with his good fortune in teaming up early with lyricist Bernie Taupin, made him one of the most durable rockers ever.
It can be argued that he sometimes plays to easy cheap sentiment, and that his later work got less interesting. Still, anyone who can play a 2-1/2-hour concert composed entirely of catchy hits, and still have two dozen left over, obviously has done something right.
This 2007 British film, unlike a documentary done 10 years ago, doesn't try to capture the full Elton. No tantrums here, no diva moments.
Instead, he walks the viewer through his life, chronologically, in a calm and reflective tone. If anything, he's subdued. While he talks about how much fun he's had being Elton John, we don't get a visceral sense of it from the brief film clips.
Nor does he offer any major revelations about his off-stage life, though it's revealing that he dwells on two events most fans might not have guessed were major turning points.
One was owning the Watford football (soccer) team, which he said taught him crucial lessons about management and about realizing you don't always win.
The other was his friendship with the late Ryan White, the Indiana boy who became a symbol of AIDS victims. Beyond the relationship itself, John says spending a week with the dying boy and his family jolted John into changing - and ultimately saving - his own life.
That meant kicking a drug habit so serious he once joked about the Swiss Alps reminding him of all the cocaine he had snorted.
It revived his career, inspired him to start an AIDS foundation that has raised more than $100 million and led him to what he calls a much more balanced life.
At the same time, it's still a rock-star life. While this special doesn't talk about the flowers, the decorating, the wardrobe and John's legendary conspicuous consumption, they're the unspoken backdrop.
"Elton John" doesn't present itself as definitive autobiography, which it's not. It acknowledges just briefly his ill-fated heterosexual marriage and seems to tread delicately on the still-tender matter of Princess Diana's death. It leaves virtually all discussion of his music and songs for another day.
It's a solid chapter in the book of his life.