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Published: 2017/10/25
by Larson Sutton

_Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago_

There can be difficulty in distinguishing the story from the storytelling when a band that has been around for over 40 years is the topic. As a retrospective on Chicago, director Peter Pardini does a thoroughly engaged and entertaining job of documenting the early years of the group, having candid present-day sit-downs with each of the principal members and plenty of great archival footage, albeit with a glaring minus of Peter Cetera whom declined to participate. Even Cetera’s absence is excused by the others, as they never considered him a “founding” member of the ensemble. The story itself is told relatively straight, from the humble Windy City beginnings (and fun Joe Mantegna cameo) to an exodus to Hollywood and a major label deal. The colossal hits followed, as well the trappings of success including the requisite substance abuse and a tug-o-war over the band’s musical direction. Guitarist, and soul of the band, Terry Kath, dies from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot; Cetera’s chart-topping power ballads pay for the swimming pools; Chicago as a once-favorite of Jimi Hendrix ditches the horns for synthesizers. It’s frustrating to watch, and assuaged little by the third act, which basically reels off the last decade or so as somewhat ineffectual pages to turn quickly in the legacy of this multi-platinum juggernaut considered, with The Beach Boys and The Eagles, as one of three of the most successful American bands in history. The storytelling essentially stops when Cetera leaves, yet the story continues on for nearly thirty more years, of which Now More Than Ever devotes about 15 minutes. As a history lesson of the first 20 years of Chicago, the film works well. Beyond that, it serves more as reminder that the last three decades are more a nod to longevity as a popular, if nostalgic touring act and less as the rock-and-soul hybrid that dominated the charts and airwaves.

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