Take a sip of Citizen Kane, a nugget of Nashville, a few riffs from Spinal Tap, add smidgeons of Slick Willy and Bush Sr, and you'll get the taste of Tim Robbins' writer/director debut. His mockumentary seemed timely on its release. Now, it remains timely and intermittently amusing, but too surface-level to wholly engage.
Granted, a fresh-from-The-Player Robbins gives good smarm as Bob Roberts, a senatorial candidate and folk-singing fascist who wields an acoustic guitar to twist the '60s dream to snaky ends. The result is a goes-down-easy satire on soundbite-packaged political sleaze, charting the currency of charm in US politics.
So what's new? Not much. As certain as Robbins' politics are, he only packs a few knowing quips and ripe performances (Alan Rickman and, in an early cameo, Jack Black) in aid of his agenda. Its heart is in the right place, but Roberts' art lacks the anger and complexity (and, criminally, any extras) needed to take you by surprise.