Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story
Netanyahu is a famous name in the world. Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu is Prime Minister of Israel and Chairman of the Likud Party. This is the little-known story of his older brother, Yoni, who was the leader of the heroic raiding party that flew 2,600 miles fromIsraeltoUgandato rescue hostages taken by militant Islamics on July 4, 1976, with only one casualty, Yoni. An Air France Plane with 248 passengers was hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Revolutionary Cells, and flown toEntebbe, nearKampala, the capital ofUganda. Shortly after landing, all non-Israeli passengers, except one French citizen, were released.
Told by reading from Yoni’s many letters and interviews with his friends, family, including Bibi, and two wives, along with archival photos and films, it’s a spellbinding story of a true hero.
What it’s not is a story of the raid, which has been already been told in at least two films, Raid at Entebbe (1976) and Victory at Entebbe (1977), neither of which included Yoni as a character, probably because members of the raiding party were kept secret at the time. The actual raid itself takes up a mere 10 minutes of the film.
Rather, this film is an in depth examination of the charismatic man himself, about how he thought and felt, how he lived his life, how he came to make the decision to devote his life to his country, and it is fascinating.
If this movie is not the worst I’ve ever seen, it is at least the worst I’ve seen this year. To give director Adam Shankman the benefit of the doubt, he is apparently trying to make a satire about 1980s hard rock bands. But what he has concentrated on, however, is making it in as poor taste as possible.
While the story of young lovers is vaguely reminiscent of Grease (1978), Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough aren’t even close to John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Unfortunately, their story takes a backseat to Tom Cruise’s outlandish and degrading performance as the rock star, Stacee Jaxx, apparently a takeoff on a real life rocker.
Shankman’s biggest accomplishment was probably directing the musical Hairspray in 2008, a movie I found far from entertaining. Unlike Hairspray, however, the music in this film, old songs from the ’80s, is quite good, as are the production numbers. Alas, they do not make up for the tawdry, dispiriting story. Satire, to be effective, needs to have subtlety attached to it. There is nothing subtle in this story. Cruise’s Jaxx is so over-the-top bizarre that the pace of the film pretty much dies when he is on-screen, except for the concert footage.
The film has what some would consider an A-list cast, including, in addition to Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, and Mary J Blige. Could any of them have read the script (Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo, who wrote the hit stage musical, and Allan Loeb)? If so, what could they have been thinking (although maybe that assumes facts not in evidence)?
Even considering the two young lovers, there is not one character in the film who is sympathetic. Without even one likeable character, the music isn’t enough to make it worthwhile.
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