Reviewed By Lybarger
Posted 02/12/07 04:18:54

"A so-so movie involving a great political figure"
3 stars (Average)

It's hard to imagine an actor who can have the same presence in front of a camera or the forceful speaking style of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. So, in "Bobby," writer-director Emilio Estevez has chosen to depict the slain presidential candidate almost exclusively through leftover news footage.

This approach makes sense because there's little that's more annoying than watching an imitator turn a historical figure into a tediously shallow caricature. Unfortunately, many of the characters played by actors in "Bobby" aren't that interesting either.

Estevez has assembled an A-list cast and convinced them to lower their salaries to play the employees and guests of the Ambassador Hotel on the last day of Kennedy's life. "Bobby" is clearly a labor of love, and occasionally the enthusiasm Estevez and his collaborators feel for the project is contagious.

Estevez correctly notes that many of the concerns that Kennedy raised in his campaign, particularly violence within and outside of America's borders, are issues that haunt us decades after 1968. The workers in the Kennedy's campaign (Joshua Jackson, Nick Cannon and Shia LaBeouf) all believe their efforts could save the country from ruin.

In the hotel's kitchen, however, the political situation is much different. The hotel staff, who are mostly Hispanic, are stuck working a double shift. One lowly worker named Josť (Freddy Rodriguez) is stuck with Dodgers tickets he can't use. He's also got a racist manager (Christian Slater, thankfully making the character convincingly human) who resents having to let the staff off to vote.

The hotel is run by a sanctimonious philanderer (William H. Macy) who's married to a beautician (Sharon Stone), but is seeing a switchboard operator (Heather Graham). All of this is presided over by the hotel's veteran doorman John Casey (cheerily played by Anthony Hopkins).

In the moments that work, Estevez makes contemporary parallels that don't seem forced. There is something poignant about a young woman (Lindsay Lohan) who marries a man she barely knows (Elijah Wood) so he won't get sent to Vietnam.

With the cast he's assembled, even some of Estevez's hokier monologues sound great. Hopkins and Laurence Fishburne, who plays a cook, can recite just about anything and make it sound like scripture.

The ensemble structure of "Bobby" becomes problematic, because some the stories are clumsy and dull. Estevez wastes valuable story time by including a tedious sequence that involves Jackson and LeBeouf tripping on LSD, while a typecast Ashton Kutcher guides them. Dude, who thought this was funny?

He also saddles himself with a dull role as the husband of a once popular singer (Demi Moore, performing the most lifeless rendition of "Louie Louie" ever recorded). His real-life father Martin Sheen is stuck playing businessman trying to keep his wife (Helen Hunt) happy. This thread also goes nowhere.

Estevez's conclusion features Kennedy's voice droning over the soundtrack. While his words still have meaning years later, Estevez winds up reducing the Senator's ideas to background music. Robert Kennedy's short but complicated life deserves a more vivid and consistent depiction than the one offered here. Note: This review originally appeared on

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