Although I'd only seen him in a few comedy specials and a handful of Comedy Central "roasts," I liked Jeffrey Ross almost immediately. On the surface he's just another sarcastic white guy with some solid brains and some quick wit, but I didn't expect him to become the next big breakout comedy star. (Indeed, his few movie cameos have been fairly dire.) I figured Ross would continue playing the comedy circuits until he got tired of the gig and/or made enough coin to retire on. And that's probably all we'd ever hear of the guy.
So consider my surprise when I got finished watching Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie and felt that it was one of the best war documentaries I've seen in years. Sure, sure, it's always juicy to take a political side and dig in for something meaty like Gunner Palace or Fahrenheit 9/11, but as a guy who hates the war in Iraq -- yet truly admires the American soldier -- I found Ross' "everyman" touch quite charming. Matter of fact, the power of comedy allows us to see a side of the Iraqi conflict that we might not have seen before.
The gist of the movie is simple: Ross, along with fellow comedians Drew Carey, Blake Clark, Andres Fernandez, Rocky LaPorte, and Kyle Dunnigan, would fly over to Iraq as part of a USO tour, and give our soldiers something that they really might be hungry for: Good old fashioned American stand-up. Invoking the justifiably beloved spirit of Bob Hope, Ross throws caution to the wind and decides to join the trip.
And that's pretty much the bulk of it. Patrio Act is 77 minutes in which we see three basic things:
1. Excerpts of the comedians' acts as they perform for tons of enthusiastic soldiers.
2. The comics' reactions to the Iraqi landscapes and the appreciative fans.
3. Laid-back interview segments with the perpetually young-looking GIs.
And here's the best part: Aside from a few jokes lobbed around onstage, Patriot Act is mercifully free of politics. There's no "left-leaning comedians bashing Bush" or "saber-rattling Republican bravado." Once you're down there on the front lines, words like Republican, Democrat, conservative, and liberal lose some of their meaning. Patriot Act doesn't wallow in patriotism or preach about the evils of war; it just gives you a short, sweet, and rather illuminating look at a comedy tour that went into harm's way, just to bring some smiles to a few soldiers' faces.
And I don't care what side of the political fence you're sitting on; I think we can all agree that our troops deserve a few solid hours of entertainment every once in a while. Jeffrey Ross might not be the next Bob Hope -- but I suspect the legendary comedian would strongly approve of Jeff's efforts.
Video: The movie, essentially a collection of video footage, is delivered in a non-fancy but fine fullscreen transfer. Picture quality is what you'd expect from a flick that has no problem calling itself a "home movie."
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 no-frills, although I didn't have any problem catching the conversations or the punchlines. Optional subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
Extras: The seven deleted scenes and the eight extra minutes of Blackhawk Rides make up for the main feature's short running time. Another cut scene (entitled Amsterdam) sees some of the fellows enjoying a little calm before the storm.
A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie (7:46) is a short film shot while on a different USO tour. (18 stops in 10 days!?!) You'll also find a brief director's statement and a promo for The USO.
That Patriot Act delivers some laughs should be no big shock, because Jeffrey Ross is a pretty funny guy. But that Patriot Act is strangely poignant and just a little bit touching does come as a rather pleasant surprise. Ross smartly allows the humanity beneath the camouflage to shine through, and he seems to have found himself a very receptive and grateful audience among the brave soldiers who toil away in unfriendly lands.