Barenaked in AmericaBy MICK LaSALLE, SFGate.com
"Barenaked in America," the latest installment in the new Shooting Gallery series, is a documentary about the Canadian rock band Barenaked Ladies and their 1998 American tour. Directed by actor Jason Priestley, the film shows the band onstage and behind the scenes, talking about one another and their music.
The band members are mild- mannered and pleasant. Their looks are average. Their intelligence is above average, and they seem to like one another. Their banter is no more interesting than the overheard banter of any group of happy strangers. These guys are very normal off stage, making them easy to like and not very exciting to watch.
The picture will probably not win the band new fans; nor does it seem created for that purpose. Little time is spent on the group's history. Only incidentally, near the finish, do we even find out that BNL have been together for a decade.
Rather, the documentary is for die-hards for whom the film might be greeted as a series of snapshots of a band in transition. At the time of the filming, Barenaked Ladies were experiencing their first breakthrough success. They were also recovering from the shock of their keyboard player Kevin Hearn's bout with leukemia.
Ed Robertson and Steven Page, the singers and principal songwriters, do most of the talking. Much of the conversation, about how great the other fellows are, providea some uncomfortably Spinal Tap-like moments. Likewise, scenes of the band onstage prove that a little of the group's sledgehammer whimsy goes a long way. Still, fans of Barenaked Ladies will not want to miss it.