Estevez too young a director to pull off ‘Bobby'

New York Daily NewsNovember 24, 2006 

We rarely see cast lists as celestial as the one sprawled across Emilio Estevez's wistful tribute to the dreams that disappeared the day Robert Kennedy died.

Along with the director's father, Martin Sheen, stars from Anthony Hopkins to Lindsay Lohan have lined up to appear in this earnest cry for a country's lost innocence, and there is no doubting their sincerity.

Nearly every moment is designed to emphasize the parallels between our experiences today — a controversial war, a disaffected populace, a disdain for civil rights — and those in 1968, when Kennedy was killed.

But this is simply too vast a task for a filmmaker as inexperienced as Estevez. Compared with, say, Robert Altman's similar but far more complex "Nashville," "Bobby" mostly comes off as a Hollywood public service announcement: passionate, righteous and strikingly removed from reality.

The film follows several fictional guests and staff members at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968, in the hours before New York Sen. Robert Kennedy (seen repeatedly in news footage) will arrive. With nearly two dozen stories to tell — Helen Hunt, Heather Graham, Christian Slater and Elijah Wood also costar — subtlety is an unclaimed luxury. Each character has a point to make, a lesson to learn.

And every reference is a cultural touchstone, to be added to the time capsule's collection.

For all its flaws, "Bobby" is a heartfelt and undeniably relevant project.

But its most thrilling moments, without exception, are the speeches Estevez includes from Kennedy himself.

Perhaps that's only appropriate, for a film designed as an elegy to a leader who has yet to be replaced.

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