DELUSIONS OF THE CRITICAL MIND?

CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Richard Roeper (“Ebert & Roeper” – Buena Vista TV), Darrin Keene (filmthreat.com), Robert W. Butler (Kansas City Star), Christopher Null (filmcritic.com), Bob Grimm (Las Vegas Mercury.com), Danny Minton (dannyminton.com), James Sanford (jamessanford.com), William Arnold (seattlepi.com), Steve Rhodes (internetreviews.com), Chuck Rudolph (slantmagazine.com)

* * (out of 4 stars)

People have charged that Chuck Barris’ antics are dangerous for the mind, but I must confess there was nothing dangerous about this movie – and nothing overwhelmingly funny or nostalgic.

“Confessions of a Dangerous mind” is a movie about TV producer Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell), creator of “The Dating Game” (1965), “The Newlywed Game” (1966) and “The Gong Show” (1976). We see Barris chaperon game show contestant winners to places like Helsinki and secretly kill enemy targets as a CIA assassin. While Barris writes about this fictional story in his book “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: An Unauthorized Autobiography,” it destroyed the potential for some real fun in the movie version.

Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) said, “The movie is fun with the TV shows. We are reminded once again of the Unknown Comic and Gene Gene the Dancing Machine…”

I agree, Roger, but there is not enough of this fun! Co-host Richard Roeper (“Ebert & Roeper”) liked the movie, but even he said, “Now as a former ‘Gong Show’ addict, I’ll admit it, my only complaint is that we didn’t get more recreations of all those famous moments from the show.” Agreed! I wanted to see more behind-the-scenes stuff, learn more about the show’s stars and all that STUFF about the “Gong Show.” I did like the brief interview clips from Jaye P. Morgan, Gene Gene the Dancing Machine (who ironically lost both his legs due to diabetes) and others. But even they were puppets to the grand plan – Chuck Barris, CIA “assassination enthusiast.”

Darrin Keene (filmthreat.com) complains, “Kaufman opts instead to treat the subject matter quite seriously, downplaying the zany game show set antics in favor of the spy story… by the time the story rolls on to ‘The Gong Show,’ arguably Barris’ pièce de résistance, the spy element has taken over.”

Clooney, as a director, should have minimized the “spy” plot and concentrated more on Barris’ career highlights. The CIA story ruined any chance of the film becoming a classic movie.

Don’t get me wrong, though. If this movie wasn’t about a real person, I may have liked it more. But the history here is too deep and familiar for me to ignore. I will say that Sam Rockwell did an excellent job of portraying Chuck Barris and I think most critics would agree:

– “Rockwell certainly has captured Barris’ manic on-screen ‘Gong Show’ persona.” Christopher Null (filmcritic.com)

– “As Barris, Rockwell gives one of the year’s best performances…he looks like Barris, and in moments where the film re-creates scenes from ‘The Gong Show,’ is spot-on in his portrayal of the goofy game show guru.” Bob Grimm (Las Vegas Mercury.com)

Danny Minton (dannyminton.com) said, “What is it with George Clooney and having to show a man’s butt all the time? I got tired of looking at George’s in ‘Solaris,’ and I felt the same of Rockwell here.”

Either Clooney was influenced by “Solaris,” Danny, or his creative abilities were distorted when he thought the name Barris was pronounced “Bare Ass.” I use STARS to rate movies in my column, but this movie almost convinced me to use MOONS!

I do have one confession to make – Clooney’s directorial debut really isn’t that bad. He actually did his best with the path he took (he should have re-wrote the script!) and his stylish visuals and sounds were often linked by a subtle tempo – amplifying the insanity of this strange spy story.

James Sanford (jamessanford.com) said,” The film can’t be called a solid success, although there’s plenty of evidence here to indicate Clooney might have better luck next time.” But even appealing visuals and a good actor like Sam Rockwell couldn’t save this movie.

William Arnold (seattlepi.com) said, “Though he’s strikingly played by Rockwell, Barris comes off as such a distasteful character and the silliness is so unrelenting that the movie wears you out. Long before it’s over, you feel yourself reaching for that gong clapper.”

Chuck Rudolph (slantmagazine.com) summed the movie up best: “‘Confessions’ feels less like a truthful confession than a tall tale meant to distract viewers from the facts. It barely throws in enough moments taken from Barris’ life to uphold its fragile semblance of reality, giving ‘The Dating Game’ ten minutes of screen time and ‘The Gong Show’ even less.”

Sacrificing comedy and nostalgia for a CIA farce ended up killing this movie’s potential. When the credits began to roll, I was still looking for old clips from “The Gong Show” or another glimpse of Gene Gene the Dancing Machine. Nothing!

Gong clapper, here I come.

– CRITIC DOCTOR




Posted on February 4, 2003 in Features by
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