The Rat Pack (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

OK, it isn't deep, but y'know, I really liked this film, which recalls the best year or two in the life of the Rat Pack. I can't tell you why, but  I've watched the DVD five times now.

On the one hand, it is just a rehashing of some old stories and an extended display of celebrity impersonations. When Sinatra performs, for example, it is Ray Liotta's body and the voice of a fellow named Michael Dees.

Forget about the rest of the players ... they do OK, but this anonymous guy named Michael Dees is the real star ... a flawless recreation of Sinatra's phrasing on the Kennedy campaign song, the best-ever rendition of "One More for the Road" - better than Frank himself, because slightly sweeter and sadder. This guy is so good at being Frank that it is eerie. 


Debra Unger showed her pubic area and her butt, both very briefly, in her role as Ava Gardner

Several other women show some naughty bits in a humorous montage which shows all of the other Rat Packers having wild sex while Dino sits contentedly alone in his room. This includes Michelle Grace as Judy Campbell.

I guess what I liked best about the movie, besides the Sinatra songs, is that it was just so much damned fun to live in those days again for a couple of hours. The movie did a decent job of showing what it was like to be hung up in the ring-a-ding, koo-koo life of the guys who had "the world on a string" for a couple of decades. In that heady time when the 50's ended and the 60's began, these guys played about 23 hours a day. They made Ocean's 11 in Las Vegas during the day, then they performed in the Sands at night, helped Kennedy get elected in their spare time, while drinking, golfing and getting laid every chance they got. The film just sort of draws you in and lets you party with them a little. Partying with Sinatra and JFK can be a lot of fun. It's music, it's laughter, it's dazzling dames. 

It isn't a highly structured film, but more of a romanticized docudrama.  Forget the deep insights. There aren't any. As Dino said, "you can't share your deepest intimate feelings when you don't have any". The film did make an effort to show Sammy's inner conflict between his own sense of self-worth and the second class citizenship he was accorded by his country and even his buddies, but it was a clumsy attempt to be serious, like a drunken guy telling you how much he loves you, and frankly it provided some of the slowest moments in the movie, despite a tour-de-force performance from Don Cheadle. Some of Sammy's songs were sung by a double, but Cheadle did his share of singing and dancing as well.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • no widescreen

  • one short documentary about what the Rat Pack was like in that era, and the film's efforts to reproduce it

Most of the cast was dynamite, and Ray Liotta was OK. I really like Liotta, but Ray is just so different from Sinatra physically, and his speaking voice is so different, that he seemed to be playing Ray Liotta instead of Sinatra. I found that distracting at first, but Liotta delivered such a consistent characterization that eventually I just forget about the fact that it isn't that much like Sinatra, especially because the singing is done so well. The rest of the guys were spot on, cast perfectly from role to role, so you'll marvel again at Dino's centered calm, Sammy's dazzling talent, Frank's complex and godlike power, JFK's charisma, and Frank's incomparable phrasing of a song ... even when it's actually sung by Michael Dees. 

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.5 
  • With their dollars ... made for HBO
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. Good mini-bio, not because it's a good movie, but simply because it accurately recreates some of the funniest, most musical, most interesting moments of funny, musical, interesting guys. One of the best made-for-cable movies ever made.

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