Grand Theft Parsons

Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 01/31/04 13:26:29

"A bio-pic road-flick that covers both ends serviceably well."
3 stars (Average)

Some movies are just watchable enough to keep you from disliking 'em. Sad to say that such is the case with 'Grand Theft Parsons', a 'based-on-actual-events' heist dramedy about one dead rocker and several interested parties.

Gram Parsons was a famous rocker who died in a hotel in the middle of the desert. His loyal friend and manager, Phil Kaufman, beholden to an arcane promise, is compelled to steal the corpse, hightail it into the middle of nowhere, and dispose of the body as per Gram's wishes. (It involves fire.)

If this sounds like the makings of your typical 'madcap road-farce' you'd be only partially right. Needless to say, there are distractions aplenty: Gram's father is in medium pursuit once he discovers Phil's crime; one of Gram's shrill old girlfriends pops up and begins whining about inheritance money; Kaufman's own girlfriend has grown tired of all the road-life bullshit; plus Phil needs to get himself a hearse!

Enter Larry, hippie extraordinaire and owner of one brightly-hued hearse. Phil manipulates the pothead into driving him to the airport, thus commencing a trek that will end many stressful hours the middle of the desert.

Director David Caffrey keeps the episodic affair moving along rather briskly, although his tale is (for all its 'based-in-reality' roots) quite a familiar one. The characters are neither dark nor outrageous enough to incite much excitement, although each one is played quite well. Christina Applegate and Robert Forster highlight the supporting cast, while Johnny Knoxville (as Kaufman) aims for credibility in his first "real" acting role...and damn if the guy's not half bad! And coming from someone who detests Johnny's Jackass show, that's a tough thing to admit: that Johnny Knoxville could actually be a halfway decent actor. Who knew??

As a historical document, I've no idea how accurate Grand Theft Parsons may be. As a mildly engaging and well-intentioned 'road flick', it's much better than it should have been and less commanding than it probably could have been.

Watch 'Grand Theft Parsons' pop up on HBO one night and don't be surprised if you pleasantly watch it all the way through. Then again, don't be surprised if you can't even remember the title a few weeks down the road.

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