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Bob Roberts

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 16, 2001 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Seeing as it's the "season" of politics, what better DVD to review than Tim Robbins' 1992 comedy/drama about a political candidate doing anything he can (including singing folk songs) to win over voters. A mock-documentary inspired a bit by "This Is Spinal Tap" and DA Pennebaker's Bob Dylan documentary "Don't Look Back", this is some of Robbins' best work, both smart about politics and hilarious at times. One of the funniest scenes comes early in the picture, where Robbins does a take on the Dylan video in "Don't Look Back" - only this time, it's "Wall Street Rap".

Robbins is a senatorial candidate that originally wins over quite a few with his songs like "The Times They Are A-Changin' Back", but as the campaign continues some begin to see through Roberts' words, especially one independent reporter, Bugs Raplin (Giancarlo Esposito) who follows him around. We are let into Roberts' tour bus to find that it's a moving trading floor, with the candidate constantly trying to make deals. He sings with a big, honest grin on his face, but behind-the-scenes, he blows up in anger when things don't go right for him.

Robbins does a fantastic job in the film with all aspects from the writing to the directing to his very funny performance. There are also a number of other solid efforts from the rest of the cast - such as Alan Rickman as his campaign manager and Giancarlo Esposito as the reporter after Roberts. It's a movie that succeeds both as comedy and as a thought-provoking tale of politics.


VIDEO: Here's where we run into a problem. Artisan, for whatever reason, has only included a full-frame image here, and I believe it's the same presentation that was included on the laserdisc. The quality is generally pretty stable, but often there are some problems that pop up during the presentation. Sharpness seems fair, with many scenes looking on the soft side, with okay detail and clarity. Some of the darker scenes in the film look a bit murky.

Some slight pixelation appears a couple of times throughout the movie, and there are noticable print flaws. The print flaws aren't massive, but there are quite a few little marks that appear now and then. Shimmering and light grain pops up as well during the film. All of these flaws don't ruin the viewing experience, but together they do begin to take away from it. Colors seem passable, looking natural, but not that crisp.

SOUND: The film's Dolby Surround audio is not at all active, as one might expect from a "documentary"-ish film like this one. The musical passages (such as the Dylan-inspired video) open up the audio a bit, but audio quality is still a little bit limited, sounding slightly thin at times. Dialogue is generally clear and natural, and remains the focus for the most part.

MENUS:: Leave it to Artisan to come up with creative menus yet again, which used film-themed images to great effect with some fun animation and menu titles (scene selection is "timeline", for example).

EXTRAS: There are some additional features that were not originally announced as included on this disc - the 2nd & 3rd commentary tracks.

Commentary One: This is the commentary that was apparently included on the special edition laserdisc of the movie, where director Tim Robbins talks about his experiences helming the movie. He's a bit more laid back than Robbins usually seems, but he remains fairly informative about what's going on in the movie, and how they had to go out and do the film with only a very small budget for their production. Occasionally, he talks about politics, but pretty much their role in the movie.

Commentary Two: Recorded in December of 1999, this is a commentary from director Tim Robbins and Gore Vidal, although most of the comments are from Robbins, who seems more energetic here than he does on the first track. There are things that are repeated here from the first commentary, but Robbins also seems more talkative here, and comes up with some more interesting comments about some political issues as well as a bit deeper analysis of the film itself. It's pretty interesting to hear Robbins then, right after the film was released, and then to hear him here, looking back on the experience. Robbins seems to be more of the usual energetic, funny Robbins than he was on the first track and he provides a much more entertaining and informative discussion here of the film.

Commentary Three: This is a commentary track from Alex Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, editors of the muckraking newsletter Counter Punch. For those who are interested in the "behind-the-scenes" events in Politics, this track will probably prove enjoyable as that's the majority of the discussion here.

Deleted Scenes: About 20 minutes or so of deleted footage from the film, most of which are smaller clips. Some of which are interesting, but I think the film moves at a pretty solid clip at its current length. The scenes play one after another and unfortunately can't be selected one-by-one.

Music Videos: Videos for "Wall Street Rap", "Drugs Stink" and "I Want to Live".

Trailers: Theatrical trailer and 2 TV Spots.

Also: Production notes and cast/crew bios, photo gallery with over 100 production photos.

Final Thoughts: The picture quality is a dissapointment; sound quality is fine, though. Artisan also did a fine job with the extra features, especially the 2nd commentary track with Robbins and Vidal. And the movie itself is enjoyable and worth a look.

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