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Film review: Greendale

Published: Thursday, June 17 2004 11:22 a.m. MDT

"Greendale" is strictly for fans of musician Neil Young, who, despite what the movie's credits might say, is responsible for this feature-length music video (Young directed under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey).

As expected, the music part of this package is fine. However, the images themselves are not. The film was shot almost entirely with a Super-8 camera, which gives it the appearance of a grainy home movie — and that graininess and the soft-focus images look awful when blown up to big-screen proportions.

Also, the ideas espoused by the film and the music are surprisingly soft, considering just how outspoken Young is in real life. So anyone except Young devotees may find this one a yawn-inducing experience.

"Greendale" is set in the small fictional California community of Greendale and follows the members of one family, the Greens, using nearly a dozen songs from the album to tell their different stories.

Jed Green (Eric Johnson) has been accused of murdering a police officer during a drug bust that went bad. That's put a terrible strain on his father and the family patriarch Grandpa Green (Ben Keith). Meanwhile, his granddaughter, Sun Green (Sarah White), has become a protester for several environmental causes, which has made her a target as well. Also, there's some nonsense involving the Devil (also Johnson).

Obviously, Young uses these characters as a mouthpiece for his peace-and-love message, and for starting debates about the legalization of "recreational" drugs, the merits of the justice system and some Earth-First posturings.

Frankly, the whole thing feels tedious, and this particular batch of songs might have been better off heard and not seen.

It seems a little unfair to critique the performances here — since the cast is lip-synching to the songs, and looking a bit uncomfortable doing so.

"Greendale" is not rated but would probably receive a PG-13 for occasional use of strong profanity (including one usage of the so-called "R-rated" curse word), drug content (marijuana and cocaine possession), and scenes of violence (gunshots, overheard). Running time: 83 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com