Review: ‘Bob Smith USA’

One man's diversity is another man's eccentricity in "Bob Smith USA," South African helmer Neil Abramson's look at seven of the more than 81,000 Americans named Bob Smith. This wry slice of Errol Morris lite isn't without a naive and loopy charm that could garner it fest play, tube exposure and a modest cult following on DVD.

One man’s diversity is another man’s eccentricity in “Bob Smith USA,” South African helmer Neil Abramson’s look at seven of the more than 81,000 Americans named Bob Smith. Though rather obvious and overlong, this wry slice of Errol Morris lite isn’t without a naive and loopy charm that could garner it fest play, tube exposure and a modest cult following on DVD.

From the mild-mannered New Jersey jazz guitarist to the small-town Texas politician, from the Boston outsider photog to the Syracuse junk collector and the California yogi, docu looks at Bob Smiths using themes of religion (or the lack thereof), patriotism, race and the private obsessions of the American male. Most extreme Bob Smiths are the Pennsylvania clown minister and the Queens atheist who enjoys strolling dressed as Satan; pic’s climactic intercutting of the latter at a sin-filled Lower East Side party with former’s entertaining of kiddies at a church sleepover is a chutzpah-filled hoot. Each man is eventually shown to have a private peccadillo and/or sorrow, injecting pic with much-needed poignancy. Tech credits are fine for a virtual one-man show, though score becomes too whimsical at times.

Bob Smith USA

Production

A Winghead films production. Produced, directed by Neil Abramson.

Crew

Camera (color), Abramson; editor, Angela Wood; music, Kennard Ramsey. Reviewed on DVD at SilverDocs AFI/Discovery Channel Film Festival, Silver Spring, Md., June 11, 2005. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Seven men named Bob Smith.
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