Auto Focus

Reviewed By Greg Muskewitz
Posted 12/19/03 22:01:24

"Losing focus."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Greg Kinnear stars as Bob Crane, star of the concentration camp comedy series “Hogan’s Heroes” in Paul Schrader’s latest film, chronicling the somewhat controversial lifestyle the actor led.

That, if you didn’t already know (and really, who would expect you to), was Crane’s growing insatiability for sex (“A day without sex is a day wasted”). Married, and with children, after the failure of the short-run “The Donna Reed Show” and during his days as a disc jockey, Crane’s success comes with “Hogan’s Heroes.” With that, however, begins the start of his decline, as the friendship between he and John Carpenter, a purveyor of the budding video technology, becomes mutually beneficial. Although Crane brings in the women, Carpenter’s access to the evolving technological scene allows Crane to abandon his pastime of photographing nudes in order to film his own pornography. Marriage number one ends, and he’s on to the second, with a co-star from his show. The introductory inspection of Crane, the initial observation, begins well. There is not so much a mood set as there is a consistent tone of 1960s sitcoms bled into the movie. The look and feel blandly suggest a generic imitation, a neighborhood right out of “Leave It to Beaver,” with Kinnear mistakenly trying to mimic the “wholesomeness” of a Matthew Broderick or a Kevin Spacey. Not altogether solid, the accomplishment of the prefatory act at least established and put forth the method of Crane’s investigation. As the star’s luminescence dims (he is reduced to performing dinner theatre) and his polyamory progressively dominates, Schrader’s tendency to play sympathetic exploiter, stiffly manifesting neither sorrow/regret nor judgment, winds up removing any structure exhibited earlier. Schrader’s insouciance allows the movie to crumble from the inside, out — otherwise, the indifference of Bob Crane’s character turns to trivialized unconcern. A hollow core only prepones the inevitable cave-in.

With Willem Dafoe and Rita Wilson.

[Not to be bothered with.]

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