Critics' picks: New DVDs

The Baltimore Sun

BOBBY -- The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment / $28.95

Writer-director Emilio Estevez's Bobby focuses not on the life of Bobby Kennedy, or on his legacy, but on his example.

In an era when the idea of celebrity has become meaningless and role models are a dime a dozen, that alone makes it one of the most important pictures of 2006.

Set at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968, the day of the California primary, Bobby focuses on a handful of guests and workers. Martin Sheen and Helen Hunt portray a well-to-do couple celebrating their 10th anniversary, while Lindsay Lohan and Elijah Wood depict newlyweds, married solely to keep the husband from being drafted and sent overseas to Vietnam. Freddy Rodriguez is a Hispanic hotel busboy whose frustrations are mollified somewhat by the wise counsel of his supervisor, played by Laurence Fishburne.

Demi Moore is an alcoholic singer whose best days are behind her, while Heather Graham is a young hotel operator with a future far brighter than this 9-to-5 job. Anthony Hopkins and Harry Belafonte are retired hotel employees who just can't let go of the old place. Nick Cannon and Shia LaBeouf are RFK campaign workers with conflicting priorities; the latter is a white college student who takes the day off from school as an opportunity to get high, while the former is an African-American who suspects Kennedy is the last politician around who gives a darn anymore.

Each character represents a segment of society during that tumultuous year, one where the U.S. seemed intent on tearing itself apart.

Bobby follows them, and others, as they go their disparate ways throughout the day, only to be brought together as one that evening, when they share the joy of RFK's impressive primary win.

Then a shot rings out, a man dies, and an opportunity is lost.

Although the film suffers from having too many characters, to the point where it doesn't know what to do with several of them, Bobby stands as a noble, evocative tribute to the sort of unifying force rarely seen in politics today. Much of it was shot at The Ambassador just days before it was torn down; the film works as a time capsule of sorts, but its value is far greater than that.

After the fatal shot rings out, as Kennedy (seen in footage shot at the time) lies there dying amid the pandemonium, it's not stirring music one hears, but the sounds of RFK himself, in a speech recorded earlier that year in Indianapolis, extolling the virtues of compassion and understanding, urging his countrymen to see past their differences and focus on their shared humanity.

Special features

Available Tuesday, the DVD contains a slight 28-minute documentary, Bobby: The Making of an American Epic, featuring brief interviews with the cast and filmmakers. A second extra features a roundtable discussion among four people who actually were present the night of the shooting.



This riveting episode of PBS' The American Experience, which had a brief theatrical run last year and premieres on PBS tomorrow night, provides ample background on Jim Jones, who in November 1978 led his 900- member Peoples Temple in the largest mass murder-suicide in history.

Included are interviews with survivors, journalists and family members of the dead.

Chris Kaltenbach

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