The U.S. vs. John Lennon

Rated 3.0

David Leaf and John Scheinfeld’s account of Lennon’s face-off with the feds is overstuffed and numbingly uncritical but comforting. There’s some material you haven’t seen before, but it doesn’t feel like it. What it feels like is an evening of beautiful music, regularly interrupted by some tipsy baby boomer’s nostalgic platitudes and obvious asides about how Bush’s Iraq is just Nixon’s Vietnam all over again, man. You know, the most complacently mainstream of counterculture rants. You’ll see conspicuously less of Lennon the arrogant naïf and more of Lennon the wit—which, of course, is wonderful: “We thought it was a great practical joke that all the world’s newspaper headlines were like, ‘Married couple in bed.’” Mostly it’s Lennon the American cultural goad, who in his struggle for creative maturation found friends in the likes of Abbie Hoffman and Bobby Seale, and, accordingly, enemies in the INS. Obligingly, the movie flits between the burners of draft cards and the burners of Beatles records, but it says little about any of them. This is a VH1 Rock Docs production, which means you’ll wonder why you’re watching it in a theater and not on television. Here’s a reason: surround sound.