'When You're Strange'

The Lizard King is a bummer in Tom DiCillo's inane documentary ode to Jim Morrison and the Doors.

The Lizard King is a bummer in “When You’re Strange,” Tom DiCillo’s disastrously inane documentary ode to reptilian rocker Jim Morrison and his mellower bandmates in the Doors. Primo footage of recording sessions, concert perfs and various backstage trips is ubiquitous — and sadly squandered — amid wall-to-wall voiceover narration, written and spoken by indie vet DiCillo (“Johnny Suede”), that is punishingly banal when not factually sketchy or flat-out false. Diehard fans of the Los Angeles group’s late-’60s psychedelic pop will rush to spin Rhino’s inevitable DVD, to varying degrees of disappointment or outrage. Doors to theatrical distribution deserve to stay shut.

Opening with images of the long-dead Morrison speeding along a desert highway while reports of his own fatal overdose emanate from the car radio, this purportedly chronological docu takes vast liberties with U.S. history in order for the director to put the band’s tonally diverse tunes in contexts of peace, love, war, love, peace and, finally, love. To hear DiCillo tell it, the Vietnam conflict ended in 1972 — three years early, and one year after Morrison died. Tech credits vary wildly according to source material.

When You're Strange


A Wolf Films/Strange Pictures production, in association with Rhino Entertainment. (International sales: Rhino, Burbank, Calif.) Produced by Peter Jankowski, John Beug, Jeff Jampol, Dick Wolf. Executive producer, Bill Gutentag. Directed, written by Tom DiCillo.


Camera (DV), Paul Ferrara; editors, Mickey Blythe, Kevin Krasny. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 17, 2009. Running time: 88 MIN.

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