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Grand Theft Parsons

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 01/19/04 08:47:04

"Will there ever be a great Johnny Knoxville movie? It hasn't happened yet."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

SCREENED AT THE 2004 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: If there's one credit bound to turn thousands of people away from a serious movie, it's the credit "starring Johnny Knoxville." This is the guy who, having made a name for himself doing stunts with poopy in MTV's Jackass, took advantage of a predicted SAG strike a year ago to sign on to star in Walking Tall, with the Rock. His salary for his first starring role in a feature film? Five million bucks. Isn't it funny how much money people will throw away when panic is involved? Knoxville steps into the lead's shoes once again in Grand Theft Parsons, the story of a musician's road manager who decides to steal the musician's fresh corpse so he can bury it as the rock star wanted. Cue a road movie with few characters, few twists, and a meandering pace.

To give credit where it's due, Johnny Knoxville is actually... well, he's pretty bad. When you take a guy from bit parts and reality TV and try to turn him into an actor overnight, you're really pushing doody uphill from the outset. Hey, pushing doody uphill... wasn't that episode 8 of Jackass?

I digress. Knoxville has a big screen presence, but he doesn't have the ability (or at least he doesn't show it) to cover a spectrum of emotions. Or even a spectrum of expressions. He seems to have 'happy' and 'pissed' down pat, but anything inbetween and he just looks confused.

The backstory of Grand Theft Parsons is based on the true story of Gram Parson, cult country music hero and influence to many of the biggest stars of the last twenty years. He died of a drug overdose, and his roadie went to go fetch him to fulfill a pact he two had made weeks earlier, that they'd be burned in the desert. Of course, nobody else was privy to his agreement and the relatives (Robert Forster), girlfriend (Christina Applegate) and the law aren't exactly enamored with people picking up bodies and driving cross country with them. For starters, imagine the smell once you've had a dead body towed through a few hours of desert. Pee-yoo!

The one shining light of Grand Theft Parsons is a hippy, Larry Osterberg (Michael Shannon), who gives the film its few mooments of humor, a whole lot more depth, and something to distract us from the fact that nothing really happens. This should have been a road movie of great depth and insight and humor, but nothing really works, from the screenplay on down.

Scratch that - the soundtrack is awesome. But when was the last time you saw a movie for the awesome soundtrack?

I'm not going to say that Johnny Knoxville won't one day exhibit some true acting scope, but I will say I haven't seen it yet, and that makes a movie hinged on his charisma, name and talent a very dicey proposition. Wait 'til it hits Sunday afternoon TV and you won't feel too cheated.

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