ORIGINAL DINER GUYS

2.5 Stars
Year Released: 1999
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 75 minutes
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Not to be a stick in the mud amidst all the male-bonding and tough-love going on here, but who really cares? Yes, Barry Levinson’s directorial debut “Diner” ranks as a seminal American film. That doesn’t mean I was convinced going in to see “Original Diner Guys” that we really needed to watch his documentary about the real-life men who inspired that film. I’m still not. Why not make a documentary about the high school kids who inspired “The Breakfast Club,” then, or the barnyard animals “Babe’s” critters were based upon? Most writers at least loosely base their characters on people they know, so to think that there’s something inherently special about these fifty-something permanent adolescents is just silly. That’s not to say that they’re not interesting guys with amusing anecdotes to share, nor that watching them age, evolve, and even die over the seven years Levinson filmed this documentary isn’t intriguing and occasionally even compelling. It is. But the same could be said about any large group of lifelong friends…and there are plenty of those, despite these guys’ egocentric conceits to the contrary. Any half-assed decent editor, or hell, even Uncle Fred with his i-Mac these days, could take a few dozen hours of videotape of any similar group of longtime friends or footage from a couple of family reunions and cut it into something that’s every bit as entertaining and poignant as this film. “Diner” is a profound and unique piece of work. It’s a film that lesser filmmakers have emulated and/or ripped-off for years, full of characters who, in spite of their deliberately crafted ordinariness, loom larger than life on the big screen. “Original Diner Guys” weakens its parent film’s mystique by introducing us to “Diner’s” aging, real-life inspirations; none of whom are nearly as compelling as the ageless “Diner” guys because, well, they’re ordinary humans, not perfectly crafted creations. It’s an unfortunate irony that it’s the director himself who’s watered down his own masterpiece by needlessly making the kind of film that anyone could have made; a film that essentially stars us.



Posted on April 5, 2000 in Reviews by
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