See this one in a theater with a good sound system. “Lighting in a Bottle” — a big-bellied concert film chronicling a one-night all-star blues show at Radio City Music Hall on Feb. 7, 2003 — challenges moviegoers to sit through all 103-minutes with a still foot. The film operates under a constant rhythm. Everything is moving, swaying, swinging, belting, wailing, dancing and whining in a celebration of sadness.

Film Reviews
“My lips are bigger than this microphone.” (Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classic)

This film, directed by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”), mixes rhythm and sorrow into a combination that tells viewers: “it’s all right to be sad; tonight, we’re all going to be sad together.” The lineup of musicians says enough about the quality of the music — B.B. King, Solomon Burke, Robert Cray, Steven Tyler, Alison Kraus, Macy Gray and Muddy Waters. Even Bill Cosby makes a cameo, reminding America he can still dance. Blues legends who have died are included through vintage footage.

The music is amazing. How could it not be with that list of toe-tapping performers? But the question that remains is whether it offers moviegoers more than something they could download off iTunes on their living-room PCs. And the answer is mostly “no.” A beautifully orchestrated “no,” but a “no” nonetheless.

“Lightning” sounds good, but it doesn’t take advantage of the historical substance beneath the notes. For the most part, the film fails to explore the 100-year story of the blues like the concert itself was intended to do.

Occasionally, “Lightning” does delve deeper. The most valuable parts of the film are the interviews, insights and stories of the performers. King recollects when an audience of teenagers in Baltimore tried to boo him off the stage because they were only interested in soul and rock music. It was 1960, and they’d never heard of King. By the end of the performance, though, the teenagers showered him with effusive applause.

Still, the film would stand to gain by offering more insight into the performers’ lives and less full-out concert coverage. However overused, the footage of musicians playing is engaging. Often, the camerawork is jerky but effective, like an extended blues riff. The most striking shot comes from a camera positioned under Waters’s guitar of his pick eclipsing the stage lights.

The visuals alone, though, won’t capture the attention of a non-blues lover. A few more dives into the varied characters of the musical genre might have been sufficient to pique the interest of a blues neophyte. “Lighting” is an above-average concert film, but when it has the opportunity to be thunderous, it doesn’t take it, instead leaning too heavily on the music.

With Watters, King, Burke and many more on board, it would be hard for this film to go astray. But if Fuqua had deviated from the sheet music of the typical concert film, “Lightning” would strike a more resounding note.

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