808: The Movie

Since the Roland Corporation introduced the TR-808 in 1980, the drum machine has become an integral part of pop music. Afrika Bambaataa, Marvin Gaye, and the Beastie Boys are among a growing list of musicians who mined the 808’s perplexing, inorganic sounds to create peerless songs packed with heart. Too bad this documentary is so clinical and unimaginative; director Alexander Dunn has assembled a large cast of celebrity talking heads to piece together a deep history of the 808, but the scattered stories of important singles the drum machine helped bring to life don’t add up to a compelling or coherent narrative. Former BBC radio host Zane Lowe narrates, sounding like someone who’s cornered you in a bar for a lecture about archaic computer hardware.