Published May 04, 2009Amerika Idol has one of those zingy premises that must have sounded great at a pitch meeting: the government of Zitiste, a small village in Serbia scarred by war and natural disaster, decides to build a statue of a cultural icon to bring inspiration to its discouraged citizens. Names like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King are tossed around but according to the narration, "they were all taken." Instead, Zitiste settles on the next best thing: Rocky Balboa.
Cute enough — this is a story that would make a humdinger of a segment on the nightly news, where it could be condensed into three minutes and shown in "the lighter side of the news" slot at the end of the broadcast. The problem with Amerika Idol is that it's a three-minute idea stretched to 34, and even at that modest length it feels tedious.
The main story arc is virtually devoid of interest; it's hard to generate much suspense over such a modest goal as building and unveiling a statue. And while director Barry Avrich raises several potentially interesting subtopics, his skimpy, superficial approach botches them all. The line between art and craftsmanship? Rocky's cultural legacy? The philosophy of the character? All these issues are dropped as quickly as they're raised.
It would be nice to dismiss Amerika Idol as forgettable fluff and leave it at that but Avrich's condescending tone leaves a bitter aftertaste. His depiction of the Zitiste is offensively simplistic: "For the first time in nearly 2,000 years the people of Zitiste had a reason to celebrate," says the narration over footage of the statue's unveiling ceremony, a statement that shows both an ignorance of the area's cultural history and a gross overestimation of the Rocky statue's importance.
In Amerika Idol's closing moments, Sylvester Stallone and other interviewees express hope that the spirit of Rocky will rub off on the Zitiste people. Oh, thank you, Hollywood, for spreading your wisdom to those goofy, naïve foreigners. (Melbar)