Sunday, April 3, 2011
Reviewing "The Kennedys": No, it's not horrible. Not great, either, though
Since I don't have a lot of time, I'm just going to offer a few quick words on the embattled eight-part miniseries "The Kennedys," which premieres tonight at 8 on ReelzChannel.
The now-infamous series was supposed to air on The History Channel, but was booted because, allegedly, it wasn't a good fit with the network. Rumors quickly surfaced that the channel was under pressure from the Kennedy family not to air the drama.
ReelzChannel, an independent cable network, eventually acquired the film and, after watching all eight episodes, I'm not terribly sure what all the fuss was about. Yes, the show depicts John (Greg Kinnear) as a womanizer, Jackie (Katie Holmes) as a bit of a cold fish and Joe Kennedy Sr. (Tom Wilkinson) as a domineering creep, but, overall, the series isn't any more damning than your typical biopic. I learned little that hasn't already been revealed or rumored and it doesn't feel particularly scandalous or blasphemous. Actually, the series is fairly positive about the Kennedys as politicians.
Controversy aside, the mini is kind of bland and pedestrian as it walks us through all the landmarks of JFK's presidency (Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, civil rights, etc.). The characters also feel a bit flat, with Holmes in particular giving an almost laughably wooden performance as Jackie. Kinnear is a bit better, imbuing JFK with his trademark charisma. However, the performance lacks the pop of some of Kinnear's best work. And, the less said about Barry Pepper's performance as Bobby, the better.
Yet "The Kennedys" isn't without value. It jumps to life whenever it focuses on Joe Sr., played with customary awesomeness by Wilkinson. The first two episodes center on Joe quite a bit, and Wilkinson has great fun playing this prickly (but often sympathetic) patriarch of a political dynasty. He's hammy when called for, but also sells the quieter moments when Joe is forced to recognize his failings. The later episodes, when Joe's role is reduced, aren't nearly as interesting. Overall, "The Kennedys" is hardly the appalling failure you might have been led to believe. But it's not a huge success, either. Instead, it's merely serviceable.