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By Jeremy Mathews | January 26, 2007

“Chapter 27” relies on the concept that following an insane person around for three days will provide you with great insight into his character. But if all the character in question does is make “Catcher in the Rye” references and speak in an annoying whisper that’s supposed to be sinister, it doesn’t really offer any insight into why he killed John Lennon.

Jared Leto stars as Mark Chapman, who shot John Lennon outside the Dakota apartment building on Dec. 8, 1980. With the weight gain, makeup and glasses, Leto does actually look quite a bit like Chapman, but that means little in terms of the actual performance, which is limited to the script’s depth and scope.

As Leto’s voiceover—a southern-tinged, raspy whisper that blathers nonstop throughout the film—tells us, “Chapter 27” isn’t about Chapman’s childhood or any of that, just three days ’round about Christmas when something happened to him. The time frame is clearly a reference to the J.D. Sallinger (26-chapter) novel that writer/director J.P. Schaefer mirrors his film after in the same way that Chapman modeled his personality. But the film lacks the thrust and scope of “Catcher in the Rye.” Chapman finds New York City to be dirty and sin-filled, moves to a new hotel, stands outside Dakota again, eats some food, goes to the Dakota again, etc.

From what I can tell, the film is generally accurate regarding the events of Dec. 8. But I got as much out of it as I did by looking up Chapman on Wikipedia. Chapman’s earlier encounters on the day of the shooting, first with young Sean Lennon and his nanny, later with John himself, are there simply because they’re expected to be. Oh, and he liked “The Wizard of Oz.”

Lindsay Lohan plays a Lennon obsessive who befriends Chapman while loitering outside the Dakota. She elects to spend much more time with him than any reasonable person would. It’s not fun to listen to some guy with a poor grasp on “The Catcher in the Rye” imitate Holden Caulfield and talk about his dislike of phonies all day, and a good-looking woman-about-town would have no need to put up with it.

The film suggests that if any of the people who spend hours letting Chapman annoy them endlessly would have kept letting him annoy them, the murder might not have been committed. Even for an obsessive fan, the guy is a bad conversationalist, unpredictable and rude. That anyone would allow this new guy into their lives is a complete stretch. And if there’s a reason to make a film about him, “Chapter 27” doesn’t reveal it.

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