‘Bobby’ doesn’t live up to hype

Maggie Nepomuceno

Former Brat Packer Emilio Estevez writes, directs and co-stars in “Bobby,” a sentimental and politically passionate film depicting the stories of 22 guests, staff members and campaign workers at the Ambassador Hotel the day of presidential-hopeful Bobby Kennedy’s assassination in 1968. While at times the film can be powerfully cathartic and nostalgic, too many needless storylines bring down the movie as a whole.

“Bobby” opens with a series of newsreel footage depicting familiar scenes from the 1960s, including the war in Vietnam and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Whether audiences will enjoy the film will depend on whether they can agree with, or at least tolerate, Estevez’s political position. The film clearly carries a liberal bias, placing Kennedy on par with sainthood and suggesting a kind of utopian world that could have resulted from his election to the presidency.

Estevez appears to draw parallels from the country’s situation in the ’60s to its situation now. Simply replace civil rights with gay rights and Vietnam with Iraq, and we have Estevez’s subtle plea for peace and justice in America.

The film boasts an impressive number of high-profile actors to create one of the most star-studded ensemble casts in recent memory. William H. Macy plays Paul, the hotel’s manager who is married to hairdresser Miriam (Sharon Stone) while having an affair with switchboard operator Angela (Heather Graham).

Anthony Hopkins is John Casey, a retired hotel doorman who plays chess and reminisces about the old days with his pal Nelson (Harry Belafonte) in the hotel lobby.

Christian Slater plays Timmons, the racist manager of the hotel’s mostly Mexican-American kitchen staff, which includes senior employee Edward (Laurence Fishburne) and Dodgers fan Jose (Freddy Rodriguez).

Among the hotel’s guests are Demi Moore, Lindsay Lohan, Elijah Wood, Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen.

Elsewhere, Joshua Jackson and Nick Cannon are busy lobbying RFK’s campaign, and Cannon exemplifies the civil rights struggle and Kennedy’s compassion for the underprivileged.

Depicting the drug-addicted world of the ’60s is Ashton Kutcher, who plays a righteous hippie, much like his character on “That ’70s Show,” offering cubes of LSD to Shia LaBeouf.

If it seems like there’s a lot going on in this two-hour film, there is. However, nothing is too complicated to follow. Unlike “Crash” or “Love Actually,” which use a similar multi-plotline formula, “Bobby” is more like a jumbled series of barely-connected mini-stories, some of which are far less interesting than others. The film attempts to reflect the spirit of the times in terms of culture, racial tensions, immigration and the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, only some of them manage to achieve this. With too many storylines, the film lacks the ability to develop any of them properly.

Some plots, specifically one featuring Martin Sheen and Helen Hunt as a self-conscious socialite, would probably be better off on the cutting room floor. Standout performances come from Fishburne and, surprisingly, Lohan. Fishburne poignantly teaches his kitchen staff about dealing with anger and racial prejudices, while Lohan selflessly marries a friend (Wood) to save him from going to Vietnam.

All of these fragmented subplots culminate in a climactic final scene overlaid with one of Kennedy’s most riveting speeches. Whether or not Bobby Kennedy was as almighty as he is portrayed to be, the film makes a strong argument that something great was lost on the night that he was assassinated.