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Case Number 20652: Small Claims Court

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Ronald Reagan: An American Journey

Image Entertainment // 2010 // 103 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron (Retired) // February 7th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Bill Gibron is prepared for the influx of non-partisan attacks.

The Charge

And on the Ninth Day, God gave us…RONALD REAGAN.

The Case

Sure, he was a halfway decent actor with an impressive (if often inconsequential) cinematic legacy. Yes, he did the TV/announcer thing before settling into "citizen politics' and becoming Governor of California. His run for the Presidency is littered with successes and failures, yet all anyone remembers now is his eight years as America's 'morning' DJ. Fast forward two decades, and Ronald Reagan has become the creased face of revisionist history, a likeable enough leader suddenly transformed into everything…except a human being. As a documentary, An American Journey is so laughably one sided that propaganda is embarrassed to be associated with it. This is NOT a critical overview of one man's dedication to guiding his nation. Nor is it a factual outlining of what he did—pro and con. Instead, it's a surreal statement of mixed intentions, at least four of which we can outline now, beginning with:

1) Ronald Reagan: A God Among Mere Men
You'd think that a life in service of cinema would dull a bit of the man's monumental patina (all good movies and roles aside). But according to the good book circa An American Journey, a thespian's trade transformed Ronald Reagan into a literal god among men. Always shown smiling—nay, beaming—as he makes his way through another busy policy day, our former President is presented like a legend, mythologized and marketed as nothing short of the right hand of Heaven. His vision of the US came packed in enough Christian prostyletizing to make George Bush jealous. In all honesty, he could have easily walked on water—unfortunately, water was just not good enough for him.

2) Ronald Reagan: Witness to All Major World Events, Past and Present
Did you know that there is a clear connection (albeit a link of such questionable legitimacy that only grounded teenagers could rationalize its existence) between Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy? Martin Luther King? Nelson Mandela? Just about any other important national or international figure or event of the last 235 years? That's Reagan for you. An American Journey decides that, anytime the former Prez name-checked a famous face or fracas, he was an integral and/or indirect part in their fate/conclusion. Call it myth by association, but we are supposed to see some of each of the before listed 'heroes' in this former film star turned big kahuna bureaucrat.

3) Ronald Reagan: Freedom's Pimp
Since this is, basically, a collection of Reagan's speeches, it's the work of his writers we are celebrating—and obviously, a couple of the scribes needed a thesaurus. The word "freedom" is uttered at least 50 times, tossed about like smokey links at a tailgating party. Everything centers on this core concept—health, wealth, liberty, justice, good, bad, terrorism, war, the deficit, the guy who snakes out the White House toilet. All Reagan seems to care about is freedom and the successful selling of said ideal to a eager '80s demo. Sure, he rattles off a few other familiar screeds—God, neighborhoods, liberal failings—but for the vast majority of his screen time, he's giving his own droning declaration of independence.

4) Ronald Reagan: The Sun Around Which All Other Political Planets Revolve
In the end, the biggest issue with Ronald Reagan: An American Journey is that it's one side of an otherwise incredibly complicated (and often very compelling) personal and political story. There is no record of his past, just a brief mention of his days in Tinseltown. No talk of the stumbles or strategies that failed to yield ripe Conservative fruit (though Iran-Contra merely "threatens" to unravel his Presidency). Instead, from the moment he steps into the Oval Office, Reagan is spun as the new Messiah, an almost Christ-like figure who combated the wicked malaise of Jimmy Carter, held fast against every main military and monetary threat the US faced, and eventually became canonized as the sainted link between the Greed Decade and the Contract with America/The recent Bush Administration/All that is good and powerful. It's as if the Republican party had no other significant members than a beloved man playing a predestined part. According to An American Journey, the role was that of center of the political universe.

Visually, the DVD presents a decent full screen image. Don't try to stretch the presentation to fit your new flatscreen, however. The almost exclusive use of televised speeches comes across as horribly flat and elongated in the 16x9 format. Otherwise, the colors are bright and the quality of stock footage very good. The Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 mix is mundane and unexciting. We get every word of the narration and speeches, and accompanying music never intrudes. For those looking for more video love letters to the former Executive in Chief—too bad. There are no bonus features as part of this DVD package.

There is no arguing with a fanatic when they are trolling over their latest obsession. For all the wonderful things he did, Ronald Reagan was not the end all, be all of the US Presidency—no candidate ever is. But don't let An American Journey hear you suggest that. It has at least four ways to show you how the 40th Commander in Chief was the ONLY Commander in Chief, and for 103 minutes, attention—nay admiration and adoration—must be paid.

The Verdict

Guilty of being a one-sided rant in favor of Reagan and his deification—nothing more.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 55

Perp Profile

Studio: Image Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Historical

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• Reagan Centennial

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