Inequality, a nation at war, immigration problems and an unpopular president – maybe the world hasn’t changed so much since 1968. Though these problems still plague us today, they were also the pet issues of presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy in the late ’60s. Would his presidency have produced a different world if he hadn’t been assassinated on the campaign trail? Writer/director Emilio Estevez’s “Bobby” is an ode to that hopeful ideal.
It’s an ambitious project. “Bobby” sets up Kennedy as a demi-god, single-handedly able to bring together the races, stop the Vietnam War and right all wrongs. Estevez (“The Mighty Ducks”) layers news shots of Vietnam, bombs falling, race riots, Dr. King’s assassination and Kennedy’s campaign between Bobby’s speeches, making him out to be the hope of the nation, a man who could change the country for the better.
“Bobby” convincingly sets up Kennedy’s effect on the nation by following the lives of ordinary people visiting, living or working at L.A.’s Ambassador Hotel on the day of the California primary and his assassination. A too-vast array of A, B and C-List celebrities filter through the movie, including Demi Moore (“G. I. Jane”) as a boozy lounge singer, Anthony Hopkins (“Silence of the Lambs”) as the retired door manager and Lindsay Lohan (“Mean Girls”) as a young girl about to marry a friend to save him from the draft (Elijah Wood, “Lord of the Rings”). Even teen stars Joshua Jackson (TV’s “Dawson’s Creek”), Nick Cannon (“The Underclassmen”) and Shia LaBeouf (“Holes”) appear as idealistic campaign workers.
Despite an overwhelming stream of recognizable talent, each role demands sufficient screen time and a decent storyline – but the rich cast is stuck with disjointed subplots that hardly get resolved. The characters aren’t given much to do and, since many don’t get the screen time necessary, they demand little emotional investment.
Despite these setbacks and dialogue limitations, some actors, including William H. Macy (“Edmond”) and Helen Hunt (“Twister”) bring substance to their roles, transforming parts of the movie from its inherent “pet-project” nature to a slice-of-life experience. Freddy Rodriguez (TV’s “Six Feet Under”) plays a busboy involved in two larger storylines. His racist employer (Christian Slater, “True Romance”) won’t let him off to see the Dodgers’ game, so he gives his tickets to Edward (Laurence Fishbourne, “The Matrix”), who, in appreciation, draws a crown on the wall, writing “the once and future king” – quite a thank-you for free tickets. Though he and Jos