A long-delayed concert tour turns into a picaresque trip down memory lane for Dennis Lambert, one of the most successful songwriters and producers of the ’70s and ’80s, in “Of All the Things,” a thoroughly engaging doc with enough appeal to reach beyond its presumptive target aud of nostalgic baby boomers. It’s directed by Jody Lambert, Dennis’ son, as both an affectionate portrait of a beloved parent and a celebration of contributions by an unsung hero of pop culture. Overall, though, pic remains effectively low-key, and could perform respectably in limited theatrical playdates before cable and homevid release.
Early scenes introduce Dennis Lambent as a robust sixtysomething fellow (in a biopic feature, Paul Sorvino would be good casting) who appears cheerfully content selling expensive homes in Boca Raton, Fla. Very quickly, though, aud learns why he bills himself as a “double platinum” realtor: During his heyday in the music industry, Lambert wrote, co-wrote or produced chart-topping hits in almost every genre of popular music, for artists ranging from the Four Tops (“Ain’t No Woman Like the One I Got”) to Glen Campbell (“Rhinestone Cowboy”), Tavares (“It Only Takes a Minute”) to Starship (“We Built This City”).
As a performer, Lambert recorded only one solo album — 1972’s “Bags and Things” — which flopped and was quickly forgotten throughout most of the universe. In the Philippines, however, the record was and still remains extraordinarily popular; a romantic ballad from the album, “Of All the Things,” has more or less become the country’s official Valentine’s Day love song.
All of which explains why, 35 years after the release of “Bags and Things,” Lambert finally gave in to the indefatigable coaxing of a Filipino concert promoter. With the blessing of his wife and young daughter, he took a brief sabbatical from the real-estate business and agreed to make a two-week “comeback” tour of the Philippines, where he would perform some of his tunes before a live audience for the very first time.
“Of All the Things,” Jody Lambert’s entertaining account of his dad’s 2007 musical adventure, finds the vet musician by turns amused and amazed by the response of thousands of fans he never knew he had. Repeatedly interviewed by eager journalists, the elder Lambert runs the gamut from wary disbelief to befuddled exuberance.
By the time he actually gets to perform with talented (but under-rehearsed) local musicians, he’s too happy to lose his temper even when concerts are delayed or interrupted by technical snafus. When you finally get to fulfill a dream, doc hints, the occasional onstage nightmare can be endured.
Also, there’s something ineffably touching about a rockumentary in which the star calls his wife after every performance to let her know how well (or how badly) the night went.
Truth be told, Dennis Lambert’s singing is more pleasant than spectacular, and some of his songs are formulaic ear candy with an antiquated flavor. But he manages to melt any aud resistance through the sheer force of his enthusiasm for music. And he maintains that enthusiasm even when, during pic’s funniest sequence, his son points out that Blender magazine listed “We Built This City” as No. 1 on its list of all-time worst pop singles.
If you have to be on such a list, Dennis Lambert insists, “You don’t want to be No. 8, you don’t want to be No. 3. You want to be No. 1.”
Production values are first-rate, with Matt Gundy’s ace sound mix deserving special credit.