"America's Heart and Soul"
Directed by Louis Schwartzberg.
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 7/7/04
"America's Heart and Soul", the new Disney
documentary about the Americans that never seem to get a TV sitcom
any more--the working-class, blue-collar types that comprise the
"real" America--is a nice little ditty on the true heroes of this
country. It's essentially 20 different snippets on various
people across the map: a preacher here, a coal worker
there...a quilter here, a farmer there. Imagine a movie full
of those NBC-style Olympic profiles they will be shoving down our
throats next month during the Athens Games, then cut them in half
(about three minutes apiece), and there you have "America's Heart
But, the genius of the film (and, maybe its
greatest irony) is that even though it profiles the old-school
throwbacks that make up much of the working-class American citizen,
it seems to think that those watching all have short attention
spans, because the way it is cut is mainly appealing to the
plop-on-the-couch white collar style of the people that are not
featured in the movie. Let me explain. In one sequence,
we get a number of very fast cuts of Americans speaking to the
camera about their passions, or playing a sport, or sweeping shots
of mountains...and I'm thinking
"Man, it's like someone from MTV walked into
the editing room and took the controls of the Avid!"
It was moving that fast! It's like
they felt like to appeal to the short attention span, they needed to
cut the film that way, when in reality, I think most folks in the
MTV generation are going to skip this film altogether since it has
the Disney tag slapped right on the front of it.
The vignettes themselves are almost all very
interesting, albeit brief; the Americans profiled don't go over the
top in their opinions of what they think makes this country so
beautiful, and director Louis Schwartzberg mixes a couple of
celebrities in with his handful of other peeps, like a farmer from
Vermont that works seven days a week AND has time to shoot home
movies AND star in the local theater production, or a two-brother
tandem that plays N'awlins-style R&B for their neighborhood.
The fabric of the people in this country really is beautiful, ain't
it? It felt like Asian-Americans got hosed in this flick,
though...Schwartzberg seems to get everyone else in there that has
at least a minor presence in the U.S., so we had some black
profiles, some white profiles, an American Indian, a couple of
Jewish families, even a trio of Latin salsa dancing brothers.
But, no Asians? As my buddy Chi might ponder, "Where's the
love for the yellow?"
The strongest part about the film is the
beautiful cinematography; Schwartzberg also shot the film and his
work is magnificent in this movie. His work with an aerobatic
pilot, a rancher and the salsa trio is just cool to watch, for
various reasons; because we keep moving from subject to subject, the
film is never very boring. This being a Disney film, things
never get too exciting, either...and, this is probably the reason
why some folks, for whatever reason, simply won't enjoy "America's
Heart and Soul", because of its strict adherence to Disney
crowd-pleasing, heart-tugging policy.
I felt that this flick was actually too
short, but I could see why the filmmakers felt like 80 minutes was
enough to get the point that us white-collar coast dwellers should
never forget about where the real passion for this country lies,
whether I like it or not. And, I didn't enjoy the montages as
much as some other folks might; they definitely are good to bridge
the gap between a handful of profiles, but then I saw some scenes in
the montages that I wished were made into full-blown profiles, and
this was not to be. Otherwise, this is strong stuff, and when
it blows out of theaters be sure to catch it on home video come
Rating: $9.50 Show
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard