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Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Starring Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Sam Rockwell
Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman
Based on the unauthorized autobiography by Chuck Barris
Directed by George Clooney

IN SHORT: "Some things are better left top secret" says the ad campaign. Never had more truthful words been uttered! [Rated R for language, sexual content and violence.122 minutes]

Rex Reed is a New York based film reviewer who was a regular panelist on The Gong Show. He was also sitting three rows in back of Cranky in the screening room while Confessions of a Dangerous Mind unspooled. He, or a character based upon his participation in Gong, does not appear in Confessions. Lucky Rex.

Chuck Barris is a man who found fame and fortune by creating some of the most low brow of television programs. The Dating Game pushed the use of double entendre to new limits. The Gong Show gave hundred, if not thousands, of talentless people their fifteen seconds in the spotlight, many of whom were booted off stage by the clanging of a big gong. We can't speak for the participants but it was damned entertaining television.

George Clooney (click for StarTalk) is an A-list actor whose acting work we have never been disappointed by. He has chosen to make his directorial debut with a biofilm based on Barris' life written by . . .

Charlie Kaufman, whose scripts for Being John Malkovich and Adaptation yielded some of the finest films we've watched as long as we've been Cranky.

Somehow it's appropriate, if very disappointing, to report that the biofilm of a man best known for gong-ing low talent norms is, itself, worthy of the gong.

An "unauthorized autobiography", which is the description of Chuck Barris' book, is one which mixes real events with flat out fictional stories. We knew Barris produced The Dating Game and The Newlywed Show and The Gong Show. We also walked away from that latter show's half hour thinking that Barris, its MC, was a loon. A man having way too much fun at the expense of the other shlubs dreaming of finding fame and fortune and beating the gong. As best we can remember, only two contestants of the show were "good" enough to get regular bits and/or careers outside of the lunatic fringe. One, the Unknown Comic, went to Vegas. The other, Gene Gene the Dancing Machine was the show's equivalent of Santa. No matter how bad the acts or how sorry you occasionally felt for the poor sap up on stage, Gene's theme and his appearance -- a very large black man with a very smooth one man soft shoe style -- could brighten any day.

No one involved with the show, apparently, knew of Barris' second life as a CIA hitman though, come to think of it, it would be a great cover to be a flashy imitation dimbulb teevee star who jets around the world to snuff enemy spies. Sure, it might be possible that, given the paranoid climate of the cold war that CIA operative Jim Byrd (George Clooney) should tap loveless shlub Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) as a first line of defense against the Commie hordes. With a great cover -- someone had to chaperone the winning couples of the The Dating Game or The Newlywed Game -- what better way to pull off a hit than to send Barris and crew to an "exotic" city like West Berlin, there to party 'til they drop. Or to drop the party on the CIA's Must Hit list. What is Barris' incentive? Is it doing his patriotic duty for his country? Is it the thrill of the hunt? Is it the fact that his go-to man in Europe is actually the lovely Patricia-not-her-real-name (Julia Roberts)?

We don't believe the superspy stuff for a second. Nor do we have much to grasp at when the script requires prior knowledge of many of the high (or low) points of both The Dating Game and The Gong Show. While the recreation of Barris' lousy dating life is truly funny and the surprise introduction of some A-list sex symbols as Bachelor Numbers 1 and 2 on The Dating Game are fun, the movie drops dead when it shifts to overexposed interviews with real life participants in those game shows. Appearances by Jaye P. Morgan and Jim Lange, while meant to add mystery to Barris' story, don't and one final shot of Gene Gene the Dancing Machine will drop the jaw of any long time watcher of the The Gong Show.

Then again, what is the primary rule of this site? You shouldn't have to know the Source Material. Kaufman's script and George Clooney's direction mandate that you do. Without that knowledge, there is nothing sympathetic about Barris, nothing interesting about his sloppily told story, and very little humor or pathos in any of it. A strong effort is made by Drew Barrymore, as Barris' longtime girlfriend to add as much heart to his pitiful existence as is possible but, as always, if we don't give a damn about the shlub, we don't give a damn. Period.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Confessions of a Dangerous Mind , he would have paid . . .


The only question we do have is "What the hell happened to Gene Gene the Dancing Machine?????"

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.