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By Peter Lynch | July 25, 2003

Bob Dylan’s “vehicle” film “Masked and Anonymous” is a nearly complete and total disaster. There’s no way to put it nicely, but where did this film go awry? Could it be the storyline of the film? Lets see…
Bob Dylan stars as Jack Fate, a folk hero turned folk legend after a long stint in a hellish third world jail…located in downtown Los Angeles. Don’t ask because we never know how or why the world is the way it is in this film. Fate is sprung for a “benefit concert” and the cause of said concert is remains unclear. It seems to be set up merely to make the concert promoters and the television network showing the concert some cash. Not a bad premise. Will Jack go on with the show and reclaim his place on the stage, or stay true to some sort of folkie code of honor? I only wish the plot worked out like that. Actually, I only wish there was a plot.
Once Jack is out of jail, he meanders back to the shady people involved with the concert who also apparently had something to do with his incarceration. Yet, the keyword is meander as the camera angles are simplistic and lame and seem to rely on basic hand-held tracking and boring one/two shots. Thus, another issue: director Larry Charles. Yes, the same Larry Charles who directed “Seinfeld” and who currently helms the hysterical “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which the look of this film sadly resembles. However, what allows Charles to succeed with his “style” on TV is that the characters are so damn funny. So is the problem with “Masked and Anonymous” the cast? Lets see…
Off the top of my head the cast includes: Jessica Lange, Jeff Daniels, John Goodman, Chris Penn, Luke Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Mickey Rourke and Christian Slater. Not too shabby. Oh, I forgot one actor: Bob Dylan. How could I forget him? Because he is utterly and totally forgettable in this film. Every time he’s onscreen he looks like they woke him up and rolled him out to the set for the shot. Then, when he speaks it’s like a cliff notes version of one of his songs. Either that, or some bizarre Dr. Phil outtake.
The one saving grace of this film is when Bob Dylan plays and sings with his assembled band. Strangely, these well-shot and tremendous sounding scenes pop up just before total and complete madness settles over another. There’s also an interesting soundtrack consisting of Bob Dylan songs, some remixed, some covered by other artists, which was very cool. Yet, not nearly cool enough to redeem this stinker.
I think what hurts most is that I really like and respect Bob Dylan. I wanted “Masked and Anonymous” to be good. It’s just not. However, to show my true fandom of Bob, I’d like to do a literary impression of Bob’s video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Picture me after this film…in the basement mixin’ up some medicine (for my headache) and dropping hand written poster board signs with these descriptive words on them: Look Out!…Boring…..Self Indulgent…..Heavy Handed….Lame….Confusing….Poorly Crafted….Annoying….Dull.

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