Runtime 145 minutes.
OK for children.


When I first went to the Virgin Islands to conduct business there several decades ago, I was warned about the inhabitants’ calypso patois. After I arrived, while it was sometimes difficult to comprehend, it was musical to listen to. Whenever they spoke I felt as if I were at a concert. It was more than charming.

This documentary about Reggae singer/songwriter Bob Marley, directed by Kevin Macdonald, is set mostly in Marley’s native Jamaica. The story is told through interviews with the people who knew him best and archival footage. They all speak the Jamaican patois. Because some of their accents are so heavy, sometimes what they say is shown in subtitles, as if they were speaking a foreign language. I felt that all of the dialogue should have been subtitled because it is extremely difficult to understand. Even so, it is magical to listen to them speak.

Made with the unprecedented cooperation of the Marley family this is as complete a biography as you could expect. It gives a little background of Marley’s parents and grandparents and then shows something of his childhood in a Jamaican slum.

The first part of the film is narrated through interviews with Neville “Bunny” Livingston, the only survivor of the Wailers, the breakthrough group Marley formed with Bunny and Peter Tosh, who tells Marley’s story from 1961 through 1973. Neville Garrick, the Wailers artistic director, who was with Marley through the remainder of his life, takes over after Bunny left the Wailers in 1973 when he split from the band.

Making McDonald’s task difficult is that there is no archival film footage of the Wailers’ performances through 1973, since they were just a local Jamaican band. The story is told using archival photographs with Marley’s music as a background. Also interviewed is Marley’s wife and several of his girlfriends, including Miss World.

Marley was of mixed race; his father was white and his mother was black, and several of his close friends explained that that was a stigma that Marley felt deeply. The film also traces his belief in Rastafarianism and how it influenced his life.

McDonald does an exceptional job of presenting Marley in a way that the audience gets to know him. He became a huge political force in Jamaica and this is also reflected in the film. But he wasn’t perfect. He had skewed morality, fathering 11 children with seven different women. His daughter by his wife displays how much she was hurt by his relationship with her by her attitude in being interviewed for the film.

It’s not the purpose of my reviews to tell the whole story of a movie. This is a fascinating tale told by people who know how to tell a story, accompanied by wonderful music. My main objection to the film is that Marley’s music is shown in short clips, instead of complete songs. But that’s a minor criticism, and he wrote so much music that the film is filled with it. This is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen.

American Reunion

Runtime 105 minutes.
Not for children.

From l, Seann William Scott and Jason Biggs in “American Reunion.”

This is a modern screwball comedy. Unfortunately, that means that it’s diminished by some disgusting sexual scenes and full frontal male nudity. But it also contains some laugh out loud scenes that are reminiscent of director Allan Dwan’s classic screwball comedy, Up in Mabel’s Room (1944).

Directed by Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, the six guys who played in the original, American Pie (1999), and the two sequels, American Pie 2 (2001), and American Wedding (2003), Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Chris Owen, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, and Eddie Kay Thomas, return to attend their high school reunion. The story centers around Jim Levenstein (Biggs) and his wife, Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), who are having marital problems, naturally. But the other guys have their problems, too. They all get together and circumstances naturally create their own problems, mostly with former girlfriends, played by Tara Reid, Shannon Elizabeth, and Mena Suvari. The entire cast returns from the previous films, so it really is a reunion.

The highlights of the film are provided by Scott, who plays Steve Stifler, the bad boy who never grew up. Scott gives a wonderful performance as a character that needed talent to be portrayed. When he’s onscreen, the film really picks up. He reminded me of two people I know. Maybe everybody has known someone like Stifler.

But there are other good performances, most notably by Hannigan as the unsatisfied wife. Biggs is the glue of the film and carries it off well, especially when he gets entangled with gorgeous Kara (Ali Cobrin), the next-door neighbor of Jason’s father (Eugene Levy) for whom Jason used to baby sit. Kara is now a shapely 18 and wants Jason. His problems with her provide the movie with its funniest parts, approximately 2/3 of the way through. It doesn’t hurt when she takes off her shirt, either. But that’s not to diminish the performances of Reid, Suvari, and Elizabeth, all of whom add to the enjoyment of the film.

There are some raunchy parts that are more disgusting than funny that could have been left out, all involving Stifler. But all in all, the funny parts outweigh the raunchy parts and the feel good ending is appropriate, if hackneyed.

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