Ron Howard follows the recent success of his Beatles documentary 'Eight Days a Week' by exploring another breakout music phenomenon in 'Pavarotti'. Described as 'the definitive story of the man behind the voice,' the film explores Luciano Pavarotti’s rise from his modest beginnings in Modena, Italy, to becoming the biggest opera crossover star of the 20th century.

Ron Howard follows the recent success of his Beatles documentary 'Eight Days a Week' by exploring another breakout music phenomenon in 'Pavarotti'. Described as 'the definitive story of the man behind the voice,' the film explores Luciano Pavarotti’s rise from his modest beginnings in Modena, Italy, to becoming the biggest opera crossover star of the 20th century.

As with the aforementioned ‘Eight Days a Week’, the film makes great use of archival sources and footage. Highlights include the Opera News magazine cover naming Pavarotti the 'King of the High Cs'; advertisements he had featured in for American Express; and a hysterically dramatic news report comparing the revelation of his extra-marital affair to the denouement of an opera. There’s a wealth of first-person talking head interviews with those who knew Luciano: his family, his long-time management, and former co-stars such as Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras. It also features some charmingly-animated interstitials which illustrate certain ideas about opera music and Pavarotti’s range and talent to a general public audience – for example, explaining what a high C is, and why Pavarotti’s delivery of it was so sensational.

It’s a very accessible film, although it is workman-like, and remarkably straightforward in presenting its subject as a charismatic superstar. The focus remains on what most people already know about Luciano: his selling out huge venues in London and New York, his legendary World Cup performances with the Three Tenors, the annual Pavarotti and Friends concerts he staged to benefit children’s charities. Yet there are times where the film noticeably fails to pull out some of the more interesting threads woven into the narrative. An interviewee mentions that Pavarotti had toured run-down dive bars in middle America before he hit the big time, the legacy of which would be something to see. Similarly, a significant portion of the film examines Pavarotti’s relationships with the women in his life, from his female relatives to his lovers to Princess Diana herself. Yet there’s little variance in the responses, even those most hard-done-by remain uniformly positive about how talented he was, and how much they loved him.

While some participants acknowledge more directly that Pavarotti could be stroppy, difficult and diva-like, and public record would appear to back this up, the film doesn’t really show this side to him, and it’s hard not to see it as hagiographic. An extended scene of Bono waxing lyrical on why Pavarotti remained a great vocalist, despite the wear and tear of age on his voice, feels very much like he's projecting, and while his anecdotes are told in an amusing way, they paint a picture of an alarmingly-domineering personality.

Charming, passable, if a little basic, anyone interested in a primer on Pavarotti would do well to start here, even if it’s missing a certain charge, never quite hitting the thrilling high notes for which the man himself was so well known.