Judge David Johnson can twist anything into a horror film. For example, he calls this John Denver biopic a "chainsaw massacre!"
It's the John Denver chainsaw massacre!
This made-for-TV biopic chronicling the bespectacled environment-living folk icon delivers 90 minutes of pulse-pounding biography mixed with an endless stream of musical montages. Seriously, this film sets the record for most montages ever.
Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Chad Lowe (brother of Rob Lowe, noted with glee on the back of the disc) plays John Denver. The movie begins with J.D. as a kid, just discovering his passion for music, but reluctant to confess his affair to his hard-ass father (Gerald McRaney.) Dad is a military man, who looks through practicality-tinted glasses and is reluctant to accept his son's decision. He wants his son to succeed, sure, but doesn't think he has half a chance doing it with a guitar in his hands.
John is resilient, and applies himself. He begins small, as an opening act for some no-name bands, and slowly works his way up. As he ascends the ladder of fame, he meets the lovely Annie (Sex and the City's Kristin Davis) and through some ferocious lobbying, gets her to agree to marry him.
A mediocre career and a pretty wife is not the fate of Johnny D. though. His notoriety continues to soar, and soon enough he's snagged a $20,000 recording contract. With the exposure his albums gain him, John soon becomes one of the biggest names in the folk music world, and his popularity propels him to wheelbarrow-loads of cash and fame.
Following the tried and true script of "power corrupts the innocent guy," John Denver gets caught up in the glitz, glamour, and inebriation of his success and even sticks his pinky-toe into the Infidelity Pool.
Needless to say, Annie is not impressed.
But she toughs it out, and the two sojourn on.
But things aren't hunky-dory in Denver-land. (Or is it just "Denver"?) John reaches his boiling point when he discovers he's been dropped by his record label. Compounded with a sudden family loss, he snaps, and, you guessed it, goes hog-wild with a chainsaw. He storms inside and chops up some furniture.
Can he rebound from these hard times? Will his tenuous marriage survive? Are there more chainsaw attacks in his future?
Let's get this out of the way: If you're a devotee of John Denver, or even folk music in general, this if for you. For non-fans, there's not much I could say anyway to sway you into checking it out (and I gave it a good try with the chainsaw stuff).
Lowe hams it up adequately as the lead, but his lip-synching leaves much to be desired. And lip-synching makes up close to 50 percent of his performance. Why? Because it's montage-a-riffic, baby! The filmmakers recognize that the movie's audience will be into John Denver's music, and, to their credit, they heap it on. Each point of John's life is characterized by a montage, and all the background music is Denver singing. It's the ultimate John Denver video collection.
It's a full-frame presentation, and that and the video quality overall reflect its TV-movie nature. The 2.0 mix certainly carries a big enough stick when Denver is belting out his tunes.
Yet, what holds this disc back significantly is the lack of quality bonus features. There's a weak John Denver discography and an equally weak filmography. Also included is "John Denver in his own words and lyrics," which is just text. No interviews, no concert footage, no featurettes, nothing of substance related to the making of the movie. For something so explicitly intriguing for Denver fans, the disc's bonuses are really kind of a slap in the face. Or a chainsaw to the face, whatever the case may be.
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