Stealing Sinatra (2003)
User ReviewsAdd a Review
Kidnapper: "That's not going to do it. We want $240 thousand."
"Stealing Sinatra" is a quiet little comedy about a bunch of dimwits trying to pull off a heist that's way out of their league. As straightforward entertainment, it's interesting & funny enough to keep you amused from start to finish. But for my money, I enjoyed it on a deeper level that tells the story of America's impending loss of innocence in the mid 60s following the single greatest wake up slap of the 20th century: the public assassination of President JFK. (And soon after, the public assassination of his accused assassin.)
But that would come later. This movie is a clever snapshot of American life on the verge of a serious reality check. There are no bullet-blazing gun battles, no violent beatings and splashes of blood across the screen, no dark gritty angst and political subversion. The main criminal mastermind doesn't even curse (aside from hissing "oh... sugar!" when things go afoul). By today's standards, this would be the most boring caper ever. But that's precisely what makes it so interesting.
David Arquette is perfect as "Barry", the criminal mastermind who looks like he'd be more natural selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. William H. Macy is also perfectly cast as "Mr. Irwin" the confused, fatherly voice of reason, alternately dishing out Confucian wisdom and coaching Barry on how to be a better criminal. The supporting characters, Ryan Browning as criminal #3 "Joe", Thomas Ian Nicholas as the young deer-in-the- headlights kidnappee "Sinatra Jr." and of course a very convincing James Russo as Old Blue Eyes himself, make this a real treat to watch.
Like I said, don't expect a crime caper thrill ride of any sort. While there are some good suspenseful moments, the real attraction of this film is in its subtle, humorous portrayal of American innocence, even in the midst of a felony. A unique cross between "Suicide Kings" and "The Brady Bunch", this is a very human story that could practically serve as a cultural document... if anyone cared. As the opening titles go: "In 1963, an event happened that rocked the nation. This is not that event. But it really did happen."
Stealing Sinatra is a half-slapstick comedy about dimwit kidnappers, dimwit victims, and a few other side-stories thrown in to eat up some time.
You will see some poor performances all around in this movie. The drama is forced, and the humor makes no sense. Whether you're watching the kidnappers threaten the victim who won't shut up, or a victim's father responding to the criminal's death threat with "Care for some tea?", none of it is believable. This quite comfortably fits into the "wannabe movie" category.
You will also be listening to a repetitive goofy music track throughout pretty much the entire movie. It's quite unprofessional, and adds nothing. It's really just a sad attempt at making an achingly unfunny movie seem somewhat witty.
However, if you're able to look past all of this and suspend a lot of disbelief, you might be entertained by the adequate storyline.
I voted 4/10.
Yet three rejects from the gang that couldn't shoot straight actually did that incredible deed which fortunately for them, no harm, no foul and they all got incredibly early paroles. But the story of their trials and jail sentences is not told in this film.
One factual error that was made was that the strategy of claiming that the whole thing was a publicity hoax that young Sinatra was in on was one used by their defense attorney later on at trial. The three perpetrators didn't claim that right away.
Other than that, William H. Macy, David Arquette, and Ryan Browning are the three kidnappers in a story that sticks pretty factually close to the events as they happen. James Russo does a fine job playing the senior Sinatra, it's like seeing Old Blue Eyes himself. Fortunately the role did not call for singing like Sinatra.
Showtime produced this film for their network and the plot centered around David Arquette playing Barry Keenan the organizer of the plot. His rather amoral character is gone into somewhat, the other two roles of John Irwin (William H. Macy) and Joe Amsler (Ryan Browning) are left kind of up in the air by the script.
Stealing Sinatra is a factual retelling of one of the strangest events of the Sixties. A bit above average for a made for TV film.
Yes, Arquette is a minor weak link but otherwise this film has a lot of good things going for it - and frankly I think how the kidnappers is portrayed adds to the realism of the film - I mean you have to be either dumb or crazy to try something like this - or both.
Ebert and Roeper gave it two thumbs up and I can see why - it was refreshing to see a story like this told from a lighter angle rather than the melodramatic stance it usually is.
Undoubtedly those who didn't "get" the Arquette character missed the flaws in personality which Arquette did portray well... the guy has a screw loose and is as Macy says, "in waaaaay over his head".
As far as the directing being a little clunky, I do have to agree, although perhaps its suits this somewhat unconventional storyline. All in all, It was enjoyable until the end, nevertheless it gets 7 stars because it was a little rough around the edges.