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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.58%
Worth A Look: 3.23%
Just Average: 3.23%
Pretty Crappy: 9.68%

2 reviews, 19 user ratings

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Masked and Anonymous
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by Robert Flaxman

"Makes less sense than even the most oblique Dylan song."
1 stars

Supposedly, every member of Masked and Anonymous' star-studded cast took a pay cut for the chance to appear in a movie with Bob Dylan. Evidently none of them ever bothered asking to see a script, or someone might have noticed that very little about the film makes any sense whatsoever.

Masked appears to be set in a dystopic parallel universe where the United States is a dictatorship sprawled over most of the North American continent and engulfed by the kind of rebel insurrection more typical of Latin America - but really, it's anybody's guess. Dylan plays Jack Fate, a character so similar to Dylan himself that he even has some of the same songs in his repertoire; at the same time, other characters discuss contemporaries of the real Dylan, like the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. To add to the confusion, Fate is the son of the dying president, a relationship which, helpfully, seems to mean next to nothing to any of the characters.

The plot, such as it is, is at least pretty straightforward: Fate is sprung from prison by his manager (John Goodman) to play as the headlining act of a vaguely-described benefit concert. Beyond this rudimentary description, however, the film is near-completely baffling. People speak in truisms that would be rejected for inclusion in fortune cookies, and the fact that many of the actors - in particular Goodman, Jeff Bridges, and Val Kilmer - appear to have been given free reign to improvise makes it seem doubtful that even they know what they're saying or how it supposedly fits into the broader context.

Presumably this would be more of a problem if the film had a context, but on the count of message, Masked is as unclear as it is with anything else, if not more so. Its protagonist is a hardened 60s radical who no longer seems to care much about anything at all - on this count Dylan echoes his recent song "Things Have Changed," but the point of having such a boring, apathetic hero is unclear. Stranger still is the depiction of the revolution. Based solely on what transpires onscreen, it doesn't seem that the film sides with either the government or the rebels. If it's not going to do that, what was the point of depicting the conflict at all?

The long cast list isn't bad to watch, with the exception of the mumbly, unsure Dylan, who is basically exactly what one would expect. The stars all took a pay cut to appear with him? Really? I mean, he's an icon, but he's not an acting icon. The most that can be said is that he could probably be worse. At least when he delivers a line of the silly dialogue, which he co-wrote, it sort of makes sense to hear him say it. Otherwise, not one of the laundry list of stars is capable of selling the stuff. Even a willfully nonsensical movie like this year's I Heart Huckabees sounds profound next to this stuff, which might as well be in a foreign language.

Director and co-writer Larry Charles is a veteran of "Seinfeld", which perhaps explains how he can be comfortable making a movie about nothing. Here, though, he takes that idea to near-absurdist extremes and then reverses it - where "Seinfeld" found its humor in the recognizable human drama of the everyday, Masked fails to make any connections to humanity in its forced depiction of the outlandish. The characters aren't characters, they're dialogue machines, but none of the dialogue makes sense. Even "Seinfeld" gave its characters identifying features and believable lines. The people in Masked could have read from each other's scripts and the result would have been about the same.

Really, the film's only moments of any enjoyment come in seeing Dylan performing songs on stage; the focus on these sections makes me wish he had just recorded another album, rather than surrounding a few good songs with too much unwatchable movie. Masked and Anonymous has enough acting talent in it that it could be worse, but that minor concession is about the only praise it merits.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6815&reviewer=385
originally posted: 10/13/04 03:30:55
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/12/06 Matt The movie is a morality play; the dialog contains a lot of symbolism. 5 stars
9/29/05 Tyrantis Not even good to mock MST3K style. manos has been beaten. 1 stars
7/01/05 Mike Santucci I felt bad for the actors. Awful. Why was John Goodman wearing a prom tux? 1 stars
12/10/04 Lucas Stensland This movie proves how useless the Matrix flicks are. 5 stars
11/12/04 devin step back, take a look, it is metaphor, a dylan song in film...your far to literal 5 stars
9/02/04 Art Vandaleigh Wow, Bob Dylan now has no talent in ACTING as well as Music. (dirty hippie) 1 stars
6/12/04 Sam Mickey Rourke is always cool. 3 stars
4/13/04 John Aster Habig was good until the last 15 min. but then it lost me why did they kill Goodman 2 stars
2/27/04 Charles Tatum I may be shallow, but this film still made me cringe 1 stars
10/03/03 Cameron Slick So unfathomably painful to sit through, watching talent monologue circling around Bob Dylan 1 stars
7/30/03 mightyquinn61 May very well be the best movie ever made. 5 stars
7/26/03 C Valdez Bob is a legend. Go back and watch another Jim Carey film 5 stars
7/26/03 James White excellent. only the shallow can't understand it 5 stars
6/19/03 Wendell Openshaw Only worthwhile thing here is Dylan's songs 2 stars
5/09/03 julian pathetic legends-in-their-own-mind bullshit. 1 stars
1/28/03 Ryan Saw it at Sundance, left confused and unhappily less $10 1 stars
1/25/03 Anymous BOB ROCKS! 5 stars
1/25/03 Jose Mesona this is great 4 stars
1/24/03 Mr Math Bob Dylan vanity project that people showed up to. 2 stars
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  23-Jul-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 17-Feb-2004



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