SPOILER ALERT !!
Hey, “Moriarty” here. Just wanted to drop in to present a review that made me stand up and applaud. I am not a mean man when I write about film. I don’t think I take cheap shots at people. At least, I try not to. I think we all bubble over on occasion and… well…
… you remember when Vern fought and conquered the CHAOS DVD back in August?
Well, this is a better review.
Unless you are Paul Haggis. Or Emilio Estevez. Or pretty much the entire cast of BOBBY. In which case, you might want to go enjoy something over in Coax for a while, cause this… this gets ugly:
Question for you fellas:
Why is Emilio Estevez famous again? I can’t think of many legitimately good movies he’s in besides REPO MAN. People love their BREAKFAST CLUB, I think I liked STAKEOUT at the time, can’t remember. I think now he mostly just directs TV shows, but that’s not enough Gatorade to quench the artistic thirst for this guy. With his new all star ensemble BOBBY he’s going serious. He’s wearing two hearts, one on each sleeve, maybe even has his targets set on the Academy’s notorious weakness for actors turned directors. Who knows what those chumps will fall for these days?
BOBBY is not exactly the story of Bobby Kennedy – he only appears in file footage (lots of it) and a few times played by a back-of-the-head double. Instead it’s the story of the people who were in the Ambassador Hotel the night he was assassinated, including some of the other people who were shot in that kitchen. Of course, none of them are based on the actual historical figures, let alone actual recognizable human beings you might relate to. So I guess what it is is the story of a dozen or two lightly sketched stereotypes. You know, one of those day-in-the-life interweaving story type deals, but not convincing enough to make you feel like you’re spending a day with anything but a bad movie.
The topic is different but this movie definitely wants to be CRASH. Not the pervy one where they have sex with flesh wounds and re-enact celebrity car crash deaths and then Deborah Kara Unger asks James Spader what Elias Koteas’s anus looks like – I’m talking about the more ridiculous one by Paul Haggis. There’s no getting around it, BOBBY is downright Haggish. You got the all-star cast of people representing different walks of life through broad cliche or hollow gimmick. You got the varied storylines of people all facing some Important Issue or Personal Struggle that’s coming to its peak at the same time and place where Bobby is about to get shot. They even got the climactic musical montage where all the characters silently meet their fate or come to some kind of understanding or something. This time it’s set to “The Sounds of Silence.” They have a conversation about THE GRADUATE in the movie as if to admit “Yeah, I know, this song was already in THE GRADUATE.” Maybe we should be grateful though – the one original song in the movie is an end credits gospel tune written by fucking Bryan Adams.
People are always worrying about the shitty horror movies that pour out whenever a SAW 1-3 makes a bunch of money, but we never thought to worry about CRASH imitators. In retrospect we should’ve seen it coming, they probaly should’ve put a JACKASS style disclaimer on that one. I know I discussed this with my readers and I found plenty of reasonable people who liked CRASH. But they know they are a small percentage of mainstream society. The one place in the world that movie went over like gangbusters was that part of Hollywood where they live in a biodome and have never met other human beings before or experienced actual life incidents, so it all seemed to make sense to them. Yeah sure, everybody is a horrible bigot and a saint at the same time, no two people can cross paths without exploding into racial controversy, everybody loves to challenge racial stereotypes by showing that they’re all true, and Ludacris really uses the word “chinaman” all the time. And some rich racist lady might see the error of her ways because of an ass injury, why not? Since Hollywood loved that one so much it should be no surprise that a year later we got actors like Emilio Estevez writing and directing their own ridiculous Important and Meaningful CRASHalikes.
If you hated CRASH like I know most of you did, you will hate this horse shit too. In fact, CRASH might be a better movie. It’s more ridiculous, more offensive, more self important and therefore more laughable, but it has more style to it. It is well directed at times. It has individual moments that, isolated from the rest of the movie, might be kind of effective. This one, as far as I’m concerned, never clicks at all. And at least CRASH is so off its rocker it gets a rise out of you. I still can’t get over that scene where Ludacris finds out he’s been driving around all day with a dozen illegal immigrants stuffed in the back of his van. And doesn’t seem that surprised. And then another guy offers to buy them from him. BOBBY only has a couple parts that funny.
Let me give you an idea of the kind of shit you’re dealing with here:
*Anthony Hopkins plays an old guy who works at the hotel, his job is apparently to play chess with Harry Belafonte and make a speech about all the famous people who have come to the hotel.
*William H. Macy is the manager of the hotel, he is married to the hotel stylist (Sharon Stone [ABOVE THE LAW] – I actually didn’t realize it was her until I looked it up on IMDb just now, so give her points for that) but he is having an affair with switchboard operator Heather Graham. Because there really aren’t enough stories about extramarital affairs in movies. Finally somebody had the balls to tackle this unique subject. Oh well, he’s probaly wanted to screw Rollergirl since BOOGIE NIGHTS.
*Christian Slater plays the Haggish racist asshole kitchen boss. I usually enjoy Christian Slater but he doesn’t get much to do here. In WINDTALKERS he got his head chopped off, in MINDHUNTERS he got frozen and shattered, in HOLLOW MAN 2 I forget what he did but it was probaly pretty good. Here I don’t think he even dies, so what’s the point of casting him?
*Lindsay Lohan (HERBIE: FULLY LOADED, various tabloid stories) plays a young girl marrying Elijah Wood (you nerds know who I’m talking about) so he won’t have to go to Vietnam. She says some platitudes about how until someone in charge can tell us why we’re over there she’ll do her part to save young men’s lives. Then the powerful Estevez character drama comes in when you find out SHE REALLY LOVES HIM! I’m not big on abstinence before marriage but when they find out they’re in love, do they really have to screw right then even though they’re getting married later the same god damn day? Is it that hard to keep it in your pants? Jesus, kids today. Er, yesterday.
*Since Bobby got shot in the kitchen they gotta go into the lives of the Mexican kitchen workers, represented by Freddy Rodriguez (the guy who got his nosering pulled out in PAYBACK) and Jacob Vargas (NEXT FRIDAY). They of course have arguments about whether they should call themselves Mexican or Latino and whether or not it is fucked up that Christian Slater forces them to work double shifts. They are the most sympathetic actors in the movie though, and their storyline about missing a historic baseball game that Freddy has tickets for is compelling compared to the other stuff going on in the movie.
Then head chef Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus) shows up to give one of those righteous speeches he’s been doing since at least the days of Furious Styles. The berry cobbler he made sure looks delicious, but I don’t buy this mumbo jumbo about how he followed the recipe but couldn’t make it taste right because it had “no poetry, no light.” I mean it sounds real good and all but it makes no actual sense, and chefs aren’t really that superstitious. Nice try Emilio. Anyway, remember how there was a sign that said “the once and future king” taped to the wall in the kitchen where RFK was shot? In the movie Laurence writes it on the wall in grease pencil to compliment Freddy for giving him the baseball tickets. At first I felt sorry for Laurence for taking part in this but then I remembered that he was also an actor who directed a bad movie (ONCE IN THE LIFE) so maybe he deserves this.
*Estevez is in there as a henpecked former superstar jazz drummer who now lives in the shadow of his trashy lounge singer wife, played by Demi Moore. Moore is embarrassingly terrible playing a drunk bitch, and her plastic surgery is too good for the character and time period. Later she drunkenly confesses to Sharon Stone (that was really Sharon Stone? I can’t get over that) that she is a drunk bitch, and I’m pretty sure this is supposed to be a touching moment of redemption, even though in real life that bitch would break down like that two or three times a day and it wouldn’t change a thing. WASSUP ROCKERS had a way more believable version of this exact character, played by Janice Dickinson and with the added bonus that she got cartoonishly electrocuted in a jacuzzi.
*By far the worst storyline is the one about Shia LaBeouf (knows Michael Bay) and Brian Geraghty (knows McG) as campaign volunteers who are supposed to be knocking on doors for the California primary but instead end up doing acid for the first time and going to see PLANET OF THE APES. Yeah, that sounds more interesting than the rest of the movie but take my word for it, it’s like a high school theater production of FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, these two geeks standing in their drawers looking at stock footage of Vietnam and Nixon, and various “oh dude I’m so high” type wackiness. And the worst part is Ashton Kutcher as their “comic” relief hippie drug dealer. There is no excuse for this shit. America doesn’t deserve this. A significant portion of the audience I saw it with laughed at all these “jokes,” but that’s their problem. I guarantee you won’t.
*The part you will laugh at though, which is not supposed to be funny, is the story of Martin Sheen (SPAWN) and Helen Hunt (TRANCERS I-II) as a couple staying in the hotel. You keep expecting Martin Sheen to be president, like in that one TV show, or like in the movie where he played JFK. But instead he’s just a husband. Near the beginning Helen Hunt makes a big speech about why the color of shoes is important to women, and you think wow, Emilio Estevez must’ve really done alot of research on this thing, he’s blown the lid off the secret inner lives of women. Then near the end Sheen makes a speech to her where he actually says “you are NOT your shoes!” and makes profound declarations about our lives being more than just “stuff.” This speech is a classic – finally, some solid laughs instead of just squirming and eye rolling. I’m sure that shoe line will become a favorite quote among friends who suffer through this movie together.
The writing of this thing is pure amateur hour. Estevez throws in annoying references to popular culture of the time. He’s gotta have people talk about BONNIE AND CLYDE and THE GRADUATE and there’s a painful conversation where Martin Sheen makes fun of Helen Hunt for buying “a painting of a soup can.” GET IT, A PAINTING OF A SOUP CAN! ANDY WARHOL! I THINK SOME OF YOU MAY KNOW WHICH PAINTING HE IS TALKING ABOUT! NUDGE NUDGE! I think RFK really was shot the day after Warhol was, so it’s fine that they mention that, but jesus man think of a better way to bring it up.
This isn’t all nostalgia, it’s obviously supposed to be about today too. You probaly caught the Vietnam/Iraq parallel and then they throw in a couple parts talking about the new computer voting and how it will be easier. A guy from the Kennedy campaign demonstrates how punchcard voting works and says something like “or as the boys at IBM call them, chads,” and all the squares in the crowd I saw it with laughed right on cue. If you like watching tapes of old Jay Leno monologues you’ll enjoy all the great jokes here. Too bad they couldn’t work in a Judge Ito reference somewhere, that would’ve been pretty topical.
Like Spike Lee going crazy with the blackface montages in BAMBOOZLED, Estevez has to include all of his research in the movie. So it opens with a surprisingly long collection of footage of the real Kennedy and various images of war and protests. And then in the middle of the movie it does it again. And again later on in the middle. And again at the end. And then there’s a photo montage during the end credits. And clips of RFK speeches playing on TVs that the characters are near. And a recording of one of his speeches over the endless slow motion assassination aftermath scene. Archival recordings are the only real presence of Kennedy felt in the movie, you sure as hell don’t get any inspiration from what’s going on with the actual characters. So maybe it was a good idea to include it. On the other hand it makes you just want to watch a documentary, and you get fed up with the overblown scoring behind the speeches. WE GET IT, you love the guy and everything he stands for. So you decided to honor him with a bad movie.
The idea of making a movie about this topic at this time is understandable. Alot of people were really inspired by RFK, they liked his vision for a better tomorrow (not the movie A BETTER TOMORROW, I am talking about the abstract concept). He had that leadership thing, he inspired people, people listened to him. When Dr. King was killed, RFK made that speech that really calmed alot of people down and helped them get through it. Then two months later he gets killed, and who’s left to make a speech? Who’s left to dream? Alot of people now have a similar one-two-sucker-punch-to-the-balls feeling about the last, oh, let’s say six years of American history, and want to see somebody like RFK that maybe can help change things for the better. If he doesn’t get shot.
Estevez obviously feels strongly about that. Just the word BOBBY seems to be imbued with deep meaning to him. You can tell by the violins playing at the beginning when the screen just says BOBBY in giant white letters on black. And then at the end when it says BOBBY again in giant letters. And then also after the credits when there’s another huge BOBBY. I didn’t stay for after the MPAA rating but I’m sure there was a couple more then. This thing is well intentioned but that doesn’t mean it’s good. I mean come on dude, a wife learning that she’s using expensive shoes as a crutch? That’s the deep meaning we’re supposed to get out of the guy’s life? The whole thing is so shallow and contrived that it does damage to the dream. The storyline about Anthony Hopkins (BAD COMPANY ) leads us to believe that the shocked look on his face when he finds out about the assassination is not because he believed in Kennedy’s vision of equality and peace, but because it sucks for something bad to happen at his hotel. The only emotion that comes out of this movie is during the assassination scene, thanks not to Emilio Estevez but to fucking Sirhan Sirhan. On the other hand, you can tell the movie is almost over. Hopefully you’ve never been so happy to see a Kennedy get shot.
But why does it end there anyway? I’m not complaining, I was happy to leave, but if this is really the story of these people and not Bobby Kennedy, why does their story end when he gets shot? It might be more interesting to see what it was like working at the hotel for the rest of the night. Anthony Hopkins staying up late talking to hotel guests about his feelings. I smell a part 2.
I don’t know, I guess some people will like it. There was what seemed like sincere applause at the end of the screening. I doubt they were applauding the assassination so I have no choice but to assume they really liked the movie. The guy from THE MIGHTY DUCKS and DAWSON’S CREEK was supposed to be there for a Q&A (he and Nick Cannon play campaign staffers in the movie) but he didn’t make it. That would’ve made for some humorous discomfort listening to the questions that would’ve been asked by people who really thought this was a great movie. Oh well, maybe he’ll make it for that sequel.
Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/30628