Auto FocusReviewed By Natasha Theobald
Posted 06/26/03 01:07:04
I remember watching "Hogan's Heroes" as a child (not, of course, in original broadcast). My parents must have been among the many Americans drawn to those wacky Nazis and their devilishly insubordinate captives. I was too young to grasp much of it, but I remember liking Bob Crane. This movie, I think, wants to show me why I shouldn't like him anymore, though I'm not the type to care much what someone has been doing in their off hours. So, he wasn't the Disney ideal "Superdad." I wonder who is.Greg Kinnear plays Bob Crane from his days as a radio personality, through six years on "Hogan's Heroes," then back to the relative obscurity of regional dinner theater. When we first meet him, Bob is a clean cut merry-maker earning a living cracking wise and playing the drums to audiences across the airwaves. He is married (Rita Wilson) and has three kids. Aside from the stash of porn in the garage, everything about his life seems to keep up with appearances.
When Bob becomes the heroic Hogan, though, his life begins to change. He is offered alcohol and sex, all kinds of sinful pleasures, really. At first, he eschews such things for the warmth of home and hearth, but the more opportunity knocks, the harder it gets not to answer. Bob's bite out of the old temptation apple coincides with his meeting of John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), a technology expert with his hands in stereos and VTRs (videotape recorders). Bob meets with Carpy (I'm not kidding) at a strip club and finds that banging the skins (playing the drums, dirty) calms him after a tough day on set. Soon enough, he finds himself frequenting such establishments on a more regular basis then, finally, taking a girl or two home with Carpy for group gropes, which are recorded for further gratification.
The end of Bob's first marriage and an open marriage arrangement with his second wife (Maria Bello) do nothing to curb his propensity for hedonistic play. He has a strong work ethic, continuing to appear in the same play at theaters nationwide for several years, but he also has a strong libido and just enough notoriety to get what he wants. Carpy, too, is along for the ride, taking the girls that Bob doesn't want, taking orders in and around the taping of encounters, taking, basically, whatever Bob wants to dish out.
Bob Crane dies under somewhat mysterious circumstances, but this isn't explored to any degree. In fact, as he has been narrating the whole story of his life, he gives some insight into the matter of his death -- all in voiceover. This is a mistake. The last line in the movie is a voiceover attempt to put it all into perspective, but it was just too ridiculous and horrifyingly glib. Had it not been my T.V., I might have thrown something at the screen.
The pacing of biopics tends to be a little awkward. When dealing with someone's real life, great pains are often taken to keep even minute details. This might be great for the people who knew the guy, but, for the rest of us, a little smoothing fictionalization might not be such a bad idea. I got that they were trying to show the descent of this family man into the dark corruption fame can bring to a person's soul, but I think a more interesting story could have been told with a little less of the "then this happened, then this happened," etc. The most interesting parts of this movie come after Bob's shift from trying to "be good" to reveling in being mostly "bad."
The good news comes in the form of the performances. The women aren't given much to do (in fact, I wonder how they distinguished one naked girl from another for the credits), but the men are fully flesh. Greg Kinnear does a great job of taking Bob down his path of destruction and is most amazing toward the end, when the hard living is catching up with him. Willem Dafoe gets an even meatier character, uncertain of his own identity in many respects and clinging to someone whose strength can pull him along for the ride. They make an interesting pair, slightly twisted soul mates, of sorts.The movie as a whole felt a little stiff and formal. Again, I think a less traditional approach (less chronological, more mosaic) might have better served the story and made for a more interesting movie.
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