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Steal This Movie!

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Steal This Movie!

Starring: Vincent D'Onofrio, Janeane Garofalo
Director: Robert Greenwald
Rated: R
RunTime: 111 Minutes
Release Date: August 2000
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Kevin Corrigan, Donal Logue, Kevin Pollak, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Alan Van Sprang, Troy Garity

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Harvey Karten read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

STEAL THIS MOVIE! tells the story of the famous Chicago 7 radical, Abbie Hoffman. (The title is guaranteed to strike the same terror in the hearts of video store owners when the movie makes its way to video that Abbie Hoffman's book, "Steal This Book!" did years ago for bookstore owners.) The unabashedly one-sided movie by director Robert Greenwald, a friend of Abbie and Anita Hoffman, is a lucid and intriguing tale of perhaps the most famous of the Vietnam War protestors. Freed from any pretense of objectivity, the fast-paced movie creates a flattering story as the late Abbie Hoffman might himself have told.

As the movie starts in 1977, a highly paranoid Abbie has been hiding underground for 5 years. "5 years, 17 cities, 10 jobs," is how Abbie describes it to David Glenn (Alan Van Sprang), a reporter who promises to tell his story without revealing his whereabouts. We quickly flashback to Abbie's heydays, when the world was his stage and his outrageous behavior was his not-so-secret weapon to popularize his causes. "Dull is deadly", Abbie explains as the rationale for his outlandish theatrics.

Vincent D'Onofrio turns in an energetic and endearing performance as the charismatic, smart Abbie Hoffman, a self-described "long-haired, revolutionary freak." We witness Abbie enjoying life, family and sex. Janeane Garofalo, as his wife Anita, and Jeanne Tripplehorn, as his lover and friend Johanna Lawrenson, play the women in his life.

The strong supporting cast includes Donal Logue, who appears in every other movie this summer and in various sizes from his Pillsbury Dough Boy in THE TAO OF STEVE to his more modest size this time as Stew Albert, Abbie's best friend. Kevin Pollak does a nice turn as Gerry Lefcourt, Abbie's savvy and tolerant lawyer. Representing Abbie, who turned his most famous trial into a ludicrous circus, was a supreme challenge for a lawyer.

Bruce Graham's bright script, based on books by Abbie and Anita Hoffman and by Marty Jezer, is funny and insightful. "If you don't like Abbie's mood, wait a minute," Anita tells Johanna about Abbie, who was eventually diagnosed as a manic-depressive.

Ever the philosopher, Abbie's mouth is a shotgun of ideas. "The problem with liberals is that they see all sides to every argument, which leads to paralysis," he claims. "You aren't fighting the [Vietnam] war to save democracy," he says. "You're fighting this war to save Wall Street."

The movie does a marvelous job of authentically capturing the look and mood of the period. And the old anti-war songs really rock.

The movie dichotomizes the people in Abbie's life into either friends or enemies, with the former being the world's good guys and the latter being the bad. The police, especially the FBI, are uniformly depicted as little better than the Gestapo. Too often, films with strong political agendas present us with false alternatives rather than admitting that they are really only telling one side of the argument. STEAL THIS MOVIE! works precisely because it stays strictly true to its opinions. You may not subscribe to them, but you'll understand them much better after seeing the picture. And you'll gain fascinating insights into the life of someone you may have never even cared about before. But, most of all, you'll have a high old time while reliving one of our nation's more turbulent eras.

STEAL THIS MOVIE! runs a lively 1:41. It is rated R for language, drug content and some nudity and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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