Documentary-style look at the fictional Senatorial campaign of Bob Roberts, an arch-conservative folk singer turned politician. This political satire includes several original songs co-written and performed by writer/director/star Tim Robbins, and cameo appearances by other stars as reporters and news anchors.Written by
Scott Renshaw <email@example.com>
The "Cutting Edge Live" TV show segment is shot at WQED's studio in Pittsburgh, home of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1968). King Friday's castle can be seen in the background as the production assistant storms across the soundstage to cut the power. When Fred Rogers was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award for Daytime Television in 1997, Tim Robbins was the presenter. See more »
In a scene where Bob gets off the bus in "Harrisburg" a police barrier clearly says "City of Philadelphia." See more »
Towards the end of the final credits, there is a heart-shaped outline surrounding the initials EMLA, JHR, MGR & SS (SS is in the center)... These stand for Susan Sarandon, their two children together, Jack Henry Robbins & Miles Guthrie Robbins, his step-daughter Eva Maria Livia Amurri (Susan's daughter with film-maker, Franco Amurri.) This is also in the credits for "Cradle Will Rock", another Tim Robbins directed film. Thanks are given to "The Bob Roberts Dancers"... See more »
Tim Robbins made his politics perfectly clear in his writing/directing debut, 'Bob Roberts'. By taking swipes at two-faced politicians and the grinning-idiot members of the mainstream media who cover them, Robbins managed to make his left-wing cause with humour. Although this film is a comedy, it's not often laugh-out-loud funny, but it's actually quite balanced politically. I never felt this was turning into a polemic because ANY politician who runs a dishonest campaign---no matter which "wing" they represent---will feel the sting of this mockumentary.
As the title character, Robbins plays a right-wing senatorial candidate in Pennsylvania who badmouths the revolution of the '60s while prostituting '60s images and reworking old folk songs to sell his corrupt message. It's quite amusing to hear an outspoken actor play a guy who's such a polar opposite. Roberts has it in for drug users, the homeless, the unemployed, and any other group who aren't in the upper class. While the documentary filmmakers shoot all sorts of footage that can help the candidate look great, they also manage to get many shots of the Roberts team at their worst. To be honest, it might have been even more effective if Robbins didn't paint this man as the sleaze he really is. Letting the hateful folk songs (which are performed with great cheer) and the money-hungry message speak for themselves might indeed have been more powerful. Scenes of dissension and anger in the Roberts camp almost undermine what the film is trying to do.
As an actor, Tim Robbins has been in an equal mix of drama and comedy. It's interesting that the rookie director would follow this sly satire with the dead-serious 'Dead Man Walking'. It shows his range that he could be funny here while also expressing strong views, then dial it down for stark pathos while still expressing strong views in 'Dead Man Walking'. In these two films and in 'Cradle Will Rock', he uses his friends and stock company of familiar names (including wife Susan Sarandon, Jack Black, John Cusack, Bob Balaban, and several family members).
If 'This Is Spinal Tap', 'Best In Show', and 'Real Life' are among the best mockumentaries, 'Bob Roberts' is just a notch below. It doesn't have a particularly strong ending and the entire assassination subplot plays out as way too obvious. Giancarlo Esposito (Roberts chief pain-in-the-ass) is an annoying actor and his radical reporter character never benefits the film. Still, the sharp pokes this film takes are deserved and seem to be right on target. Here we are, 12 years later, and the movie is just as topical now. Not all political films manage to pull THAT off. Take a look at the poster, where the villainous Bob Roberts is draped in the American flag. The current administration would love this guy.
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