Steal This Movie (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Some reviewers gave this film a decent review, and I'll be damned if I can understand why. Must have been some kind of a nostalgia for the sights and sounds of the 60's.
To tell you the truth, it's not a movie at all. It's a television docudrama, except it is one-sided. There is no cinematic hook of any kind. It simply recalls Abbie Hoffman's life from about age 20 until his suicide. The events are told more or less in chronological order, except for an overlay of a reporter interviewing Abbie's wife, Anita Hoffman. Any 90 minute TV show would have done the same with about the same degree of depth and less partiality. It tries to cover nearly his entire life, so it only has time for a minute or two on each event, and no time at all to develop supporting characters.


Vincent D'Onofrio's butt is seen briefly, as he is walking from the camera. There is also a posed nude of him standing face to face with a woman (the character of his wife, but presumably not Garofalo)

No exposure from the female principals, some incidental female nudity. A lot LESS than there really was in the scenes portrayed.

Well, actually, they did try two cinematic elements, with no success. In addition to the Citizen Kane thing with story being told to the the reporter, they had the elderly 50ish Abbie, in his last hurrah, address a courtroom with one of those Mr Smith goes to Washington speeches. If the real Abbie had been in the audience, he would have been chanting "Bullshit, bullshit".

There could be several good films here. The Chicago Seven trial would make a great film. Abbie's life underground would also. The government counter-activism activities would be good. The march on the pentagon might do it. Or Nixon's enemies list. But when you give each of these things a minute in the sunshine, there's no chance to examine the issues.

There are some other weaknesses, especially in the casting. Abbie Hoffman was different from the other student radicals in that he was a normal guy. He loved sports, got laid, had a great sense of humor. Vincent D'Onofrio is perhaps the most abnormal guy of the available actors in that age group, and he lends that psychotic, strident, belligerent, lumbering presence to every moment he is on screen. Abbie had a lot of charm, even charisma. D'Onofrio is .... well, clumsy and creepy.

Moreover, Abbie was funny. Is there any actor in the world less funny than Vince D'Onofrio? Maybe Jeremy Irons - yeah, he would have made a good Abbie. How did they miss him?

The epoch portrayed in the movie was a glorious time in many ways, one of the last moments for real power to the little people standing against the machine. After all, these nutburgers drove two presidents out in disgrace, and spearheaded a cultural revolution. But this movie trivializes the era and the people in it on both sides, turning it into shrill didacticism or reducing it to symbols, with no genuine chance to educate the young about the point it wishes to make.

So I'll make the point, if I can. I'm paraphrasing the great Hunter Thompson here, because I can't find the quote and I can't match his eloquence. In summarizing the passing of "the movement", Thompson said - looking back on it, George McGovern wasn't a great man and may not have made a great president. But he was one of the few men in power in America who understood what this nation might have become, what a monument it might have been to the best instincts of man, had it not fallen into the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon.

You could say something similar about Abbie.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, and a lot fo features:

  • Full-length director and actor commentary

  • Making-of featurette and behind the scenes footage

  • Archival 60's stuff - Pig fr President, e.g.

  • Storyboard-to-film comparisons and production artwork

  • The usual trailers, and a music video

He may not have been a great man, but his personality opened up a conduit between the redical left and those of us in mainstream America. Through Abbie, a funny and charismatic guy, we were able to see the theatrical and humorous lessons that no amount of screeching could have communicated to us. The other guys could have shouted "stop the war, you're killing kids" in their strident voices until the end of time, and I never would have heard them. In fact, the louder they shouted, the more I felt like disagreeing with them. But when he ran the pig for president, or dropped the money in the stock exchange, or tried to levitate the pentagon, or wore the judge's robes in the courtroom, he provoked responses which brought out the true nature of his enemies, and that made the point in a way I could clearly understand.

And though he he could be offensive and obnoxious and paranoid, and made a lot of mistakes, Abbie's heart was basically in the right places. Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. Equality. Though it was made and advised by people who knew and loved Abbie, the movie didn't really have a clue about what made his political theater so effective.

Oh, well, what can you expect? The director is the same guy who did Xanadu.

One thing good about this movie. I don't have to worry about returning it to Blockbuster. In honor of Abbie, I stole it.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, Apollo 76.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 54% positive overall, 44% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.4, Apollo users only 39/100.
  • With their dollars ... it died stillborn. Never got to more than a dozen theaters, never made it to $100,000 in gross.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D.

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