The Beach Boys' story goes back more than 60 years, with nearly 30 albums, dozens of hit singles, and enough ups and downs and family drama to fill several movies. But the documentary The Beach Boys (streaming on Disney+) packs it all into a compact 113 minutes, skimming the surface of the group's many chapters while never lingering long enough in any one area to give the casual fan much indication as to why they are one of pop music's most important bands.

Not long into the film, co-founder Mike Love says, "We've been counted out as a group a half-dozen times." That's true, but The Beach Boys, rushing through the history, details only one of them: the late-'60s decline spurred by resident genius Brian Wilson's increasing drug use and mental issues. Soon the film relates how a No. 1 album, the 1974 compilation Endless Summer, returned the band - made up of three brothers, a cousin and friends - to favor as a popular nostalgia-circuit live act.

Up to that point near the end of the movie - which fast-forwards through the remainder of the '70s and '80s to land at the Beach Boys' No. 1 1988 hit "Kokomo" - the band's rise, fall and rise again is recounted through new and archival interviews with group members; footage of performances and audio snippets from the studio; and praise by fans Lindsey Buckingham, Janelle Monae and Don Was. That's fine for viewers who may know only "Surfin' U.S.A." and "Good Vibrations," but anyone with a glancing interest in Pet SoundsSmile and Sunflower won't find much to savor.

READ MORE: When the Beach Boys Created a Masterpiece With 'Pet Sounds'

The first-person perspectives, however, occasionally enrich The Beach Boys; exploring how Chuck Berry and the Four Freshmen equally influenced the nascent group, Al Jardine notes, "We were like notes on a keyboard." They add voices to familiar tales about the irony behind their earliest hits (only drummer Dennis Wilson surfed), battles with the "abusive" patriarch and band manager Murry Wilson (who was eventually fired by the group) and Brian Wilson's 1964 airplane breakdown that prompted him to quit touring and focus on studio work like his hero Phil Spector.

The film briefly touches on the conflicts that grew during this period, as Wilson's cerebral approach to the music clashed with Love’s need to perform in front of an audience. As youngest brother Carl Wilson explains in an archival interview, "Brian was growing beyond the … pop format." (Carl Wilson died in 1998; middle brother Dennis in 1983.) As members of the famed Los Angeles studio the Wrecking Crew attest, Wilson's lack of formal musical training worked in his favor. Everyone onscreen - including Love, whose feuds with Wilson over the years are well documented and lead to the film's most touching moment - praises Wilson while acknowledging the rest of the group’s contributions to their sound.

The Beach Boys doesn’t shy away from Brian Wilson's LSD use and Love's occasional resistance to the complex and ultimately shelved Smile album in 1967. But like other chapters in the group's history, the film barely scratches these surfaces before moving on to the next stage: the friendly rivalry between the Beach Boys and the Beatles, the band's "rough patch" (as Love calls it) of the late '60s, Dennis' Charles Manson connection, Brian's psychological issues and how "uncool" (member Bruce Johnston's word) the Beach Boys were for a time.

The movie ends with a poignant scene featuring a 2023 beach reunion of the group's surviving members. But like so much of this fleeting documentary, it's a compelling moment that ends all too quickly.

Beach Boys Albums Ranked

There's way more to the band that surfing, cars and girls.

Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci

More From US 103.1 FM