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Genius Products presents
Bobby (2006)

"Now it's on to Chicago, and let's win there."
- Robert F. Kennedy, June 4th, 1968, after the California Presidential primary

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: April 13, 2007

Stars: Harry Belafonte, Joy Bryant, Nick Cannon, Emilio Estevez, Laurence Fishburne, Brian Geraghty, Heather Graham, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Joshua Jackson, David Krumholtz, Ashton Kutcher, Shia LaBeouf, Lindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Svetlana Metkina, Demi Moore, Freddy Rodriguez, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, Jacob Vargas, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Elijah Wood
Director: Emilio Estevez

MPAA Rating: R for language, drug content and a scene of violence
Run Time: 01h:56m:33s
Release Date: April 10, 2007
UPC: 796019799324
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BB+B B-

DVD Review

Any conversation about Robert F. Kennedy is full of might have beens, and he may be the most romanticized political figure after death in recent memory, even more so than his older brother. He's also of course the Bobby of this film's title, and it's a movie that wants to revive the sense of hopefulness and harmony that were staples of the RFK campaign—newsreel footage of him dominates the film, and his reedy voice with that unmistakable cadence and accent make up the movie's moral core. Around it, though, is a kind of pedestrian and sprawling story, or series of stories, really, so the movie brims with nostalgia for what's gone and isn't coming back, though it plays out for most of its running time like a really high-end, period episode of The Love Boat.

Actually, one of the characters in the film compares all of the action to Grand Hotel, perhaps a more apt analogy, with its star wattage and heavy dose of schmaltz. The entire film is set in the Ambassador Hotel on a single fateful day: June 4th, 1968, the day of that year's California Presidential primary, for which the hotel served as RFK headquarters, and where Senator Kennedy was shot and killed moments after his victory speech. Writer/director Emilio Estevez has crammed his story with characters, and he's assembled a cast of extraordinary talent. But it's almost like there's not enough room for all of them in this movie, and you come away feeling that nobody really got very much to do. Some are cast against type—Sharon Stone, for instance, runs the hotel's beauty salon, where she makes up a boozy Virginia Fallon (Demi Moore), the headliner. William H. Macy is Stone's husband and the Ambassador's manager, who is sleeping with one of the switchboard operators (Heather Graham) when he's not sparring with his racist banquet manager (Christian Slater), and so on. A lot of it is soapy, and what isn't is a little boring, like Anthony Hopkins and Harry Belafonte as a couple of retired old coots who can't stay away—after a lifetime working at the hotel, Hopkins just wants to find someone for a good game of chess in the lobby.

Occasionally Estevez gets an Altmanesque sense of how the hotel runs as an institution, and this is certainly a carefully made film, luxuriating in the bouffant hairdos and thin ties, and fascinated with the intersection of the counterculture with the political establishment. (Ashton Kutcher is pretty funny as a dealer who gets a couple of straight-laced RFK volunteers to drop acid, for instance.) But there's not much nuance to the many strands of the plot, and a couple of ahistorical in jokes (about hanging chads, for instance) fall flat. And you sometimes get the sense that Estevez isn't sufficiently confident in having gotten the period stuff right, because the soundtrack is jukeboxed with song after song after song.

Ultimately, though, the movie is principally interested in a messianic view of RFK, and even if it's a little cumbersome, the film elicits a sickening sense of dread, because we know where it's heading. We see Sirhan Sirhan bump his way into the ballroom, and it's almost unbearable to watch Kennedy at the podium and then push his way into the kitchen, knowing what's about to happen. So the last portion of the film is undeniably deeply moving; but it also makes pretty much everything that preceded it seem trifling in comparison, almost arbitrary. This is where the film hits its stride, and you can feel the sense of possibility evaporating—politically it's a chance to revisit and mourn the loss of Senator Kennedy, but aesthetically you come away wishing that the rest of the film was up to the high standard of this final sequence.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Generally a quality transfer, with only a few blemishes on the print; compositionally, the 2.35 ratio is sometimes not put to the best use, almost as if the filmmakers could hear the footsteps of the panning and scanning.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The mix can occasionally sound a little thin; I would have preferred more atmospherics, and less greatest hits soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Breaking and Entering, Factory Girl, Miss Potter, Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing
2 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. anti-smoking PSA
Extras Review: Bobby: The Making of an American Epic (28m:32s) features interviews with most of the film's prominent cast members and Estevez, along with production designer Patti Podesta, composer Mark Isham, and Evan Thomas of Newsweek, to lend some historical perspective—it's mostly clips and actors discussing their characters, though. And Air America's David Bender hosts Eyewitness Accounts from the Ambassador Hotel (29m:13s), part of a post-screening discussion; those who were there that night still talk about the assassination with emotional rawness—it's the pain that never goes away.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Bobby succeeds admirably in its vivid re-creation of the devastating emotional impact of the assassination of Robert Kennedy, but the rest of the film around that culminating event is kind of a rote period piece, unfortunately.


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