Drive through ‘Bobby,’ stop at ‘Fast Food’

Andrew Gaug

Call 2006 the year of the all-star ensemble casts. With movies such as Little Miss Sunshine, The Departed, The Prestige and Babel featuring a good portion of Hollywood’s most famous stars — two new movies, Fast Food Nation and Bobby, round out what’s left of the Hollywood elite to varying results.

Basing its story around the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, Bobby takes a look at 22 people who stayed in the Ambassador Hotel on the night he was killed. The cast is one of the biggest casts to be assembled for a movie, but feels like it took big TV stars such as “Mad About You”‘s Helen Hunt, “The West Wing”‘s Martin Sheen, and “Dawson’s Creek”‘s Joshua Jackson were filming one movie while current stars Elijah Wood, Lindsay Lohan, and Demi Moore were filming another. Then, during filming, someone decided to throw it all together in one, inconceivable mess.

Director and co-star Emilio Estevez clearly had a vision to make a film about the Vietnam era and what people dealt with at that time to coincide with today’s issues such as an unpopular war, voting troubles, racism and drugs. But instead Bobby comes off as a cheesy ode to Kennedy as if he was the second coming of Jesus and, surprisingly, besides bookending the beginning and end of the film, has nothing at all to do with the story.

With such a large ensemble cast, the movie falls off track quickly while trying to balance at least six different storylines with no flow or rationale. Actors such as Anthony Hopkins and Laurence Fishburne exist just to be the elders who give out nuggets of wisdom at the drop of a hat.

In contrast, Fast Food Nation, loosely based on the best-selling book of the same name, plays like a best-of compilation of independent stars, including Little Miss Sunshine’s Greg Kinnear, Maria Full of Grace’s Catalina Sandina Moreno and Before Sunset’s Ethan Hawke

The movie, similar to Bobby, follows several different stories all threaded along by that of a fast food marketing executive: Don Anderson, played by Kinnear. The investigation into finding whether or not the meat that is used for his restaurant — a thinly veiled parody of McDonald’s called Mickey’s — contains excrement from the cows being butchered.

While the movie is more organized than Bobby, interesting stories such as a group of illegal immigrants who are forced to work in the meat plant where the burger patties are made, and Anderson’s journey to get the truth about the meat give way to less interesting ones such as a teenager’s transformation from an employee at Mickey’s to an activist against the business.

The movie, directed by School of Rock and A Scanner Darkly’s Richard Linklater is full of talkative characters who go on long monologues that Linklater is famous for. Occasionally it works, such as a scene between Anderson and a former farmer, played excellently by Kris Kristofferson. Other times it seems forced, like in an overly long scene between Ethan Hawke and “Growing Pains”‘s Ashley Johnson.

While Fast Food Nation is more engrossing and thought-provoking, both films would work better if they weren’t as busy trying to juggle several different storylines at once. For some people in the cast of Bobby, it looks like this may have been a quick paycheck, for the viewer, they’re better off saving their money for Fast Food Nation.

Contact ALL editor Andrew Gaug at [email protected].

Fast Food Nation

Starring Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderrama, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Luis Guzman, Bruce Willis

Directed by Richard Linklater

Distributed by Fox Searchlight

Rated R for disturbing images, strong sexuality, language and drug content

Stater rating (out of five): ***


Starring Anthony Hopkins, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Elijah Wood, Lindsay Lohan, Nick Cannon, Heather Graham, Helen Hunt

Directed by Emilio Estevez

Distributed by MGM

Rated R for language, drug content and a scene of violence

Stater rating (out of five): 1 (1/2)