The Reel Review
This Netflix documentary charts the meteoric rise of the British pop duo Wham!, from its conception by childhood best friends George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley in 1982, their more than four years of success that sold 30 million records, and their final concert at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1986 – which also would mark the start of George Michael’s even larger solo career.
Director Chris Smith turns what could have been a very dry, visual Wikipedia article into something really fun and joyful, drawing from a fascinating scrapbook of childhood and archival footage – and even real-life scrapbooks made by Ridgeley’s own mother at the time. The film includes details about how the pair came up with the name Wham!, how Andrew’s then girlfriend Shirlie would become one of their backup singers and lifelong friends, and how they got the inspiration for the hit song “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go.” (It’s pretty cute.) Among the more pivotal moments: how a fateful, last-minute appearance on Top of the Pops would salvage Wham! from near demise into a stratospheric success, and the unlikely path to success for their #1 hit song “Careless Whisper.”
While the film features modern-day voice interviews with Andrew Ridgeley carefully blended with the archival interviews, we never see him, presumably to preserve the time capsule nature of the film. Even so, this accompaniment to George Michael’s recently released, final 2016 film George Michael: Freedom Uncut, has Andrew’s fingerprints all over it. Andrew shares that it was he who was the band’s driving force (at least initially), how important it was to George to be a successful songwriter, and how it was always planned that Andrew would happily walk away from the spotlight and let his best friend Yog (as he called him) continue solo at some point. Wham! is a fun, feel good bit of nostalgia about leaving while on top.
• “Careless Whisper” was Billboard’s #1 song in 1985. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” was #3.
• Andrew Ridgeley was in a relationship with Bananarama member Keren Woodward from 1990-2017.
• Andrew Ridgeley’s former girlfriend and Wham! member Shirlie Kemp (also of the pop group Pepsi & Shirlie) has been married to Spandau Ballet bass player Martin Kemp since 1988. They have two children.