The U.S. vs. John Lennon

Bomb Rating: 

This was quite the crowd pleaser among the artsy-fartsy, left-wing audience with whom I saw the film. They loved it because it pandered to already held beliefs rather than challenge those beliefs and that's precisely what's wrong with it. Filmmakers David Leaf and John Scheinfeld seem to believe that if they serve up more of what the intended audience expects to hear, that audience will like the film even better. Frankly, from what I could see and hear, that seemed to work.

In discussing the film, few people seemed to grasp my point that the movie was intellectually suspect. Although this documentary tells the story of John Lennon's quest for world peace and how his opposition to the Vietnam War and peace-loving ways made him an enemy of the United States government in the years following the break-up of the Beatles and preceding his death, it does so strictly for entertainment purposes.

Now, this might seem like a positive thing for those who find documentaries boring or producers who'd like to recoup their investment, but frankly I find it to be representative of the kind of intellectual rigor that's been sucked out of the documentary by the likes of Michael Moore. Moore has an opinion and isn't afraid to put it on display. Although "The U.S. vs. John Lennon" is less obvious, it's still more of that same kind of political crap and is a far cry from the days of cinema verité. In other words, everything the filmmakers added beyond the original footage weakened the point of the movie.

What else is there to say about a film that uses the commentary of Gore Vidal, Geraldo Rivera, and G. Gordon Liddy to cement its points? Gore Vidal is such a flaming leftist that even those on the left can't take him seriously. It's frustrating because everyone knows what kind of stuff is going to come out of his mouth. You know he's going to make comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq and Nixon and Bush. It's better if somebody respected makes those comparisons. As for Liddy, he's a cartoon character. To use him as the voice of dissent is intellectually dishonest if he's the lone representative of the right. People watch him hoping that he'll try to light one of his hands on fire or something. He's not exactly a respected political voice. Is there anything I need to say about Geraldo?

The movie could have strengthened its argument by having talking heads on the both the left and the right who were respected on both sides. Instead, it takes the easy way out. "The U.S. vs. John Lennon" may entertain those who already agree with it, but it'll just as quickly be dismissed by those who don't. It's a documentary that aspires to very little.

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