by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Berkeley is writer/director Bobby Roth's nostalgic look back at his own college days. This is not the first time that Roth has created a film from an autobiographical story about his youth. Way back in 1978, he wrote and directed a movie called The Boss's Son, which is about the time he spent working in his father's carpet store. His father reappears in this new film as a loving, hard-working immigrant (played by The Fonz!) who succeeded in a capitalist society (in the carpet business, natch) and just doesn't understand why his children don't appreciate the American system as much as he does. His son, you see, the alter ego of the author, is becoming a hippie radical at Berkeley in the late sixties.

Roth is just another baby boomer looking back on his youth, but he happens to have had a pretty good vantage point on the formation of my generation, since he happened to be right in the middle of the action. He was going to school at Berkeley in 1968. Unfortunately, his close-up view of that era is presented in the form of a story which has no real structure to speak of. It just drifts off at the end, and the final scenes could just as easily be the start of a different movie. Of course that came as no surprise since it had been drifting in the beginning and middle as well.

Even with the rambling and uninvolving structure, the film could have been a success if it had some interesting insights, and you would expect that a man in the center of campus radicalism in the late 60s would reflect back with some wisdom about the way his generation thought it would change the world by the new millennium, as opposed to what actually happened when a member of that generation held the reins of power in the first eight years of the new century. I'm not sure how Bobby sees today's world, but it looks about the same to me as it did in 1965, before the student revolts, except for some cosmetic and technological changes. As our generation has matured, some progress has been made in pursuit of racial and gender equality, as evidenced by the current candidates for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, and the attitude of American society toward sex has liberalized radically, but except for a few tweaks here and there, the great student revolts of the 60s created little more than great t-shirts, posters and soft drink ads. The students of 2008 are facing more or less the same world, with the same problems we faced in 1968.

As I see it, there has been one major change which has kept today's campuses from being as radicalized as those of forty years ago - self-interest. The Vietnam War was fought with conscripted soldiers, which means any one of us could have been in the jungles after an F in Organic Chemistry. Today's wars are fought with professionals who have volunteered for service, so the privileged university kids feel no threat to their own personal existence. As I look back on those years, I wonder how much different our campuses would have been if America had instituted a volunteer army after World War Two. Self-interest is the ultimate motivation.

Although Berkeley is narrated from the present day by a voice-over, it offers no reflection on the merits or efficacy of student revolt. It just tells the personal stories of several people who were caught up in it. They hook up or break up based on commitment to and passion for The Movement. They take some serious drugs and play some acid rock. Accurate enough. Nostalgic enough. But empty.

The film does have one thing going for it. What it lacks in critical self-assessment it makes up in personalization. It consists of a man (writer Bobby Roth) telling his own story, using his own biological son (actor Nick Roth) to play himself at about the same age. Any time a film gets that close to reality, it has to offer a few genuine moments which touch the audience, and this one does occasionally get close enough to the bone to spark my own memories of similar incidents from that memorable epoch.

If only those moments added up to something.


* widescreen anamorphic








40 (of 100)


5.6 IMDB summary (of 10)
  Seems about right to me.


Box Office Mojo. The film was completed in 2005, but was dressed up with no place to go. It appeared at one minor film festival in October of that year, received no special awards there, and then seems to have disappeared from the earth for two years. No major festivals. No theaters. No DVD. It finally received a perfunctory one-theater run in October of 2007, where it grossed less than $4000 in seven days, then disappeared again until its DVD release in April of 2008.



  • There are four topless scenes from the two female stars, but only one of them is truly any good, the first one with Laura Jordan, which shows her nice body in good light. Her other scene is shot in approximately the same lighting level as deep space.

  • The two Sarah Carter scenes are either too modest or blurred by motion, or both.


Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a: