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5 reviews, 14 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"Emilio Estevez May Just As Well Have Played Bobby"
1 stars

You get the distinct impression watching Emilio Estevez’s Bobby that the making of the film had to have been a lot more interesting than its own execution. I guarantee it’s the only positive impression you’re likely to have watching this well-meaning but misguided to the point of Monty Python’s twits trying to shoot the staked-down rabbits. This is the only place to begin discussing the film which hopefully haven’t given elder moviegoers the false hope that they’re headed into the story of Bobby Kennedy’s life. From Here To Eternity didn’t call itself Pearl Harbor. Dark Blue wasn’t known as The L.A. Riot. So unless you have the chutzpah to back it up with a screenplay capable of bottling up all the late Senator represented about the possibilities for this country, you don’t call your film Bobby when The Love Boat: Crash Special would have served just as good.

The film takes place in 1968, entirely in the Ambassador hotel where Robert Kennedy would have an appointment with fate after winning the California primary. We’re treated to a namedrop-filled speech by the hotel doorman, who does just about anything but stand by the door all day (Anthony Hopkins), (because he's retired and now just hangs out at his old place of employment) who also drops the title of 1932’s Grand Hotel, the Best Picture-winning ensemble melodrama. (Hint, hint.) The restroom attendant has never seen that film, but he’s seen Bonnie & Clyde, one of the many symbolic works of art signaling a change in America’s sensibilities after a decade full of assassinations and the Vietnam War.

Whisking along Estevez’s attempt to use Kennedy’s optimism for change are twenty-some characters, some with a direct connection and some, well, let’s start with the others first. William H. Macy is the hotel manager making sure everything is in place for the evening, including giving his employees an opportunity to go out and vote. This butts heads with his food-and-beverage manager (Christian Slater) who correctly points out that most members of his kitchen staff aren’t citizens (or can’t speak English) therefore negating their ability to vote, so why give them the time off to do something they can’t even do with the melee of people expected that evening. Of course, this immediately brands him a racist and he is fired on the spot. One of those workers (Freddy Rodriguez) is going to miss out seeing Don Drysdale’s record sixth-consecutive shutout at Dodger Stadium and is torn between the anger of his fellow “Mexican” (Jacob Vargas) and the cobbler-cookin’ Laurence Fishburne who has the melting pot all figured out (because, you know, he’s a COOK) compares Rodriguez directly to King Arthur in Estevez’s half-witted reminder of the rise and fall of Kennedy’s Camelot. There’s also a young woman (Lindsay Lohan) taking the marriage hit for one of her schoolmates (Elijah Wood) so he’ll avoid the front lines of the land war in Asia.

This is about as direct a correlation as you’re going to get to the titular icon with this sprawling ensemble. Sure, there are the two pairs of campaign workers on his staff. Joshua Jackson is in charge and Nick Cannon as another minority hoping Bobby will change everything. Then there are the junior staffers (Shia LaBeouf & Brian Geraghty) supposed to be knocking on doors for votes, but instead get sidetracked on a joint run and acid trip supplied by hippie Ashton Kutcher. Wow, drugs in the ‘60s. I don’t believe any of Bobby’s inspirational speeches mentioned his stance on mind-altering hallucinogens. Nor how fond he was of boozy singer Virginia Fallon’s (Demi Moore) rendition of “Louie, Louie” as a crowd opener. But she’s there with her husband (Estevez) and manager (David Krumholtz) downing single malt and feeling sorry for growing old with Macy’s beautician wife (Sharon Stone), which is more about Moore and Stone as former A-listers now forced to do favors to get film roles. We all remember Bobby’s speech about the effects of aging divas on the global economy, right? Macy, by the way, is having an affair with one of the hotel phone operators (Heather Graham), a Czech reporter (Svetlana Metkina) is desperate to get five minutes with Bobby and a socialite (Helen Hunt) who forgot her shoes is comforted by her husband (Martin Sheen).

If the theater, video store, or (more likely) cable station where you see Bobby forgets to provide your complimentary 60s zeitgeist checklist, just remember you’ve got the Vietnam war, drugs, civil rights, women’s rights and, I guess, free love. All populated within some of the most thinly-drawn characters this side of Fantasy Island. If Estevez wanted to bring about an emotional response to the loss these people feel once the bullets ring out, he should have focused by streamlining his attempt at Altmanesque histrionics and cutting about 18 characters who are nothing but familiar faces in a hotel known for them. In the film’s most prophetic bit of unintentional hilarity, Estevez literally walks off his own movie and passes the torch directly to Sirhan Sirhan for mop-up duty. This all leads to a further trivialization of the evening’s events by gasping our attention towards the “other victims” of Sirhan’s eight shots. While most may forget others were wounded that night, we certainly won’t forget the ironies of the A-list celebrities taking bullets who get even more shots of their injuries (some of them clearly fatal – even though a title card later reassures us that everyone survived so we can wipe our brows and say “Thank the Lord”) than the person of interest who was actually killed that night.

Such ridiculous inconsistencies make it much more involving to connect the dots to all the favors Emilio called in to make this monstrosity like it’s the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game – about the only actor not on display here. He wrangled in the co-star from Freejack who wanted his body (Hopkins), the partner-in-crime from Young Guns II (Slater) and the hockey-coached stepson from three Mighty Ducks films (Jackson). His dad, Martin Sheen, certainly wasn’t going to say no to any Kennedy-related project and he got his Apoclaypse Now co-star (Fishburne) to join him. The ex-fiance (Moore) agreed and got a part for her current husband (Kutcher). Heather Graham was in License to Drive with Corey Haim who was in Lucas with his brother, Charlie as was Rodriguez (uncredited in Good Advice). Or you could eliminate a degree by taking the Graham route to Matt Dillon (Drugstore Cowboy) who co-starred with Emilio in The Outsiders and who later acted with the Lohan (Herbie Fully Loaded). Oh, but who wants to spoil the whole game for you when its about the only thing that isn’t rotten about this film.

The false alarm triggered at film’s beginning should be an ample enough clue to get out while the gettin’s still good. Opening with a collage of Bobby footage and potent quotables from his speeches, the shift from the grainy to the Technicolor immediately wishes upon us that Estevez would just throw out his script (subjected to numerous rewrites at the money men requests – not to mention a part for his lady friend which sticks out like a mole on a whitewash) and do a documentary about the effect Bobby had on the people of the time. Counter it with the politics of today and you could still get all your elder celebrity buddies to share stories. But to quote the film Bobby would so desperately want to be compared to, “People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.” Except that whole history-changing assassination thing.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15002&reviewer=198
originally posted: 11/22/06 00:03:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/02/09 Jeff Wilder Not as bas as some critics thought. Not that great either though. 3 stars
3/22/09 Dane Youssef An unbelievable cast of the finest talent. An important subject. But a disapointing movie. 3 stars
6/10/08 mr.mike Nice try is saddled with uninteresting characters. 3 stars
7/22/07 whatever the film was a beautiful and touching picture 4 stars
2/18/07 dmitry So earnest that its hard not be won over 3 stars
2/05/07 William Goss Mediocre ensemble drama improves at end thanks to great speech, not great filmmaking. 3 stars
1/15/07 malcolm sharon stone, helen hunt, demi moore starting to look old 4 stars
1/01/07 Mike Guagliardo movie lets younger people why he is missed and needed 4 stars
12/06/06 Gabriel Canada I have heard the speech form the begining of the film, it is almost sacred. 4 stars
12/05/06 Robert Filmore Surprisingly good movie, given the reviews I've looked at to date. The criticism that he vi 4 stars
12/04/06 Dan Jordan Powerful, made me long for leadership again.. 4 stars
11/27/06 fifthbiz A not so "Grand Hotel" with a helluva ending 3 stars
11/25/06 Michele Mccann Broke my heart all over again. 4 stars
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  DVD: 10-Apr-2007



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