I am always apprehensive when I see a “stellar cast” kind of movie, since 9 times out of 10 (okay, 10 times out of 10), it’s disappointing. (See: New Year’s Eve, Movie 43, etc.) Emilio Estevez’s 2006 film (which he wrote, directed, and starred in), Bobby, is on the higher end of the disappointment spectrum.
As opposed to many other ensemble movies, Bobby actually tackles an important subject: Robert F. Kennedy’s win at the 1968 Democratic presidential primaries in California and his assassination mere moments later. The problem with the ensemble cast, though, is that, for the most part, we really don’t care about them.
Take, for instance, Estevez himself and his wife (Demi Moore), a drunk, aging performer who is fully aware of the fact that she is drunk and aging, and her husband who tries not so hard to keep her in check. She is, however, fully aware of the fact that she is both a drunk and aging, and her only significance here really is that she is scheduled to perform before Kennedy takes the stage. Will she get so drunk that she blows it, or will she pull it off despite being a mess? Of course it’s option B - it’s always option B. She is an older Jules from St. Elmo’s Fire.
Then there’s Lindsay Lohan and Elijah Wood, whose characters are getting married because, Lohan’s character tells herself, she’s trying to save Wood’s character from going off to war, but she’s lying to herself about how much she truly feels for him. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Lohan is a pretty damn good actress, if only she’d get out of her own way.
I find it rather unbelievable that Heather Graham would ever hook up with William H. Macy, but that’s just what their characters do, and behind Macy’s arguably just-as-unbelievable wife, Sharon Stone’s, character’s back.
Laurence Fishburne seems wasted in a role where his chief importance is not having to work double shifts despite being black, further enforcing how the Latinos are having it worse than the blacks ever since Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the world. And speaking of minorities, none of the minority actors used here are any that you would probably recognize on sight - more likely a problem with Hollywood as a whole, rather than the casting department of this particular film.
A quick sum-up of who’s left: Shia LeBoeuf’s character is nerdy and awkward, Christian Slater’s character is a racist douchebag, the importance of Helen Hunt and Martin Sheen’s characters was lost on me (as was, come to think of it, their purposes here at all), Joshua Jackson was as adorable as usual, Anthony Hopkins was as regal as usual, and Ashton Kutcher as a drugged-out hippie wasn’t too far off from his role on That ‘70s Show. In a word, all of the performances here felt safe. Everyone played roles we’ve seen them all play before.
I guess the point here was to show how very different a group of people can be, yet they blend together in the face of a crisis - meaning that what sets us apart falls by the wayside in times of trouble and we are stripped down to our most basic humanity, something we all have in common despite race, creed, or color. This goal, however, could have been just as easily achieved, and perhaps even more poignantly, with a lesser-known cast.