Wham! review: "A buoyant docu-tribute to 80s pop"

Wham! (2023)
(Image: © Netflix)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

A buoyant tribute to 80s pop, youthful exuberance and the importance of friendship.

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"How could these two idiots become so bloody massive?" asks George Michael, rhetorically, at the beginning of Chris Smith’s joyous docu-portrait of 80s pop sensation Wham!.

In just four years, Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, two teenage buddies from Bushey in Hertfordshire, became a global force in music with hits like 'Club Tropicana', 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' and 'Last Christmas'. Their story is a genuine example of living the dream, something Smith conveys to a tee. 

Tracing the band’s stratospheric rise, Smith (American Movie, Sr.) delves deep into the archives, excavating rare footage of the band performing on their debut Club Fantastic tour in 1983. There are no talking heads. Instead, we get narration culled from audio interviews with Ridgeley and Michael. That the latter passed away in 2016 makes the film’s achievement all the more impressive; there are times when it feels like the two former bandmates are in dialogue with each other. 

Like Michael and Ridgeley, Smith’s film doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still finds time to tackle more serious topics, from Michael keeping his sexuality under wraps to the boys’ groundbreaking 1985 tour of China, which hadn’t previously hosted a western pop act. 

Best of all, Smith captures the 'lightning in a bottle' nature of Wham!: the fact that Ridgeley was ultra-supportive of his bandmate’s rapidly evolving talent as a songwriter. It’s rare indeed to find a music documentary that isn’t driven by jealousy and in-fighting, but instead brims with positivity. To borrow from Wham! themselves: fantastic.

Wham! is in cinemas on June 27 and on Netflix from July 5th. For more upcoming movies, check out our guide to 2023 movie release dates

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Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.