Love the Beast Eric Bana

Love the Beast Eric Bana
Before Eric Bana became famous for either his stand-up comedy in Australia or his film work in Hollywood, he was a suburban gear head who loved muscle cars. Well, just one car in particular: his car, a 1974 Ford XB Falcon Hardtop, the same car that (ahem) Mel Gibson drove in Mad Max. Twenty-five years later, now that he's famous enough and has the clout to make a film about himself and his car, this documentary is birthed. After establishing the background to Bana's upbringing in Australia and the source of his love for automobiles, the film moves into the structural coat hanger of the story, which is Bana's participation in a five-day rally race through Tasmania. Some decent race footage and some genuine speed demon thrills make this section of the film watchable. But the repetitiveness of the message smells just like burning rubber. Helping to analyze or support Bana is fellow car freak Jay Leno, some British TV personality named Jeremy Clarkson and Dr. Phil McGraw. Dr. Phil makes some thoughtful analyses of Bana's obsessions, but Jay Leno makes only one joke, otherwise staying as straight-faced as his post-Conan debacle interview on Oprah, once again proving he just isn't funny. Save for a brief scene on the red carpet premiere of his film Lucky Numbers, there's no inward look at Bana's celebrity and the effect of his career on his obsession. It's a shame, because why else would we care about someone else's vehicle's unless it was a celebrity's? The problem lies with the fact that Bana is the producer and director, and thus unable to provide a true third-person perspective on his life. Early on, one of Bana's interviewees explains how "non-car" people can't understand why "car people" can have a genuine relationship with an automobile, which, as a non-car person, also explains my thoughts on this film. There isn't much else going on thematically in Love the Beast that isn't on the surface or told over and over. Eric loves his car and we should all love it too ― not all that fascinating, interesting or thought provoking unless you're a gear head like Bana and his mates. Normally, I hate the idea of having a director's commentary on a documentary ― after all, wasn't the documentary the commentary? But in this case, Bana's second-hand ruminations on the film, the subjects, his cars and celebrity life greatly enhance the movie. Also included on the DVD are lengthier, but forgettable, interviews with Bana and Clarkson, as well as a trailer featuring the awesome Band of Horses song "Is There a Ghost," which unfortunately isn't featured in the film. (Mongrel Media)