New Rockumentary has the 'Barenaked' NecessitiesBy PAUL CROCCETTI, The Heights, September 27th, 2000.
In Barenaked in America, the Barenaked Ladies show their funniest, goofiest sides as this hilarious rockumentary takes us on their American tour of two years ago. It touches on a history of the Canadian band, but the bulk of the film is concert footage from the Stunt tour and interviews with the boys concerning life on the road with each other.
Directed by Jason Priestley (yes, that Jason Priestley), the film captures the band members at their wildest moments, such as an opening shot of lead guitarist and vocalist Ed Robertson on a toilet.
Yes, they're goofy, but at least they're not trying to hide that. The Barenaked Ladies have a terrific sense of humor, which is prevalent in their songs as well as in their interviews and concerts. You have to appreciate what this band is all about on the road: "Going out and having a good time, putting on a different show each night and just flat out entertaining," as one record executive put it in the film.
Three celebrities even make cameo appearances, praising the band for its contribution to the music world. Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart and Jeff Goldblum are all in typical fashion as they ramble on about the band. Stewart's speech on hockey players and O'Brien's moments backstage with the boys are two of the funniest scenes in the movie.
It is very entertaining and funny to see lead singer Steven Page bounce around the stage while the rest of the band tries to hold its composure at the sight of this "dancing." It's hilarious to watch Robertson and Page freestyle rap every night. Many people think they write their rap numbers before the show, but BNL stresses that it is totally improvisational. From little bits about naked people to growing up in Canada, their raps are very funny and actually pretty amazing.
If you like their music, the concert footage is a bonus. If you don't like the music, don't worry, there isn't too much live performance in this film. There are good clips of "It's All Been Done," "Alcohol," "If I Had a Million Dollars," "Break Your Heart" and others. There is even a clip from Mixfest in Boston two years ago, when BNL awarded $1,000 to a guy who dropped his pants. Their chants of "Pants offfor a thousand bucks!" are hilarious. Be warned, we do see all this guy has to offer.
The Barenaked Ladies spend a few minutes praising the city of Boston in this film. It was really the first city in the United States that played their music on heavy rotation, and as a result, the fan base is huge here. They show nothing but total appreciation for the 80,000 people who showed up at City Hall Plaza three years ago for a free concert. Their shock and gratitude for the overwhelming amount of fans there is heartfelt.
An other time when the mood is serious is when Robertson, Page, bassist Jim Creegan and drummer Tyler Stewart speak about keyboardist Kevin Hearn's battle with leukemia. It's not difficult to tell that his disease hit all the band members hard. The fact that he couldn't come out on tour in support of Stunt was the least of their concerns. However, as Robertson says at a concert, "He kicked cancer's ass." We get a nice look at Hearn's first song back with the band with the extremely emotional, "Call and Answer."
The band was able to replace Hearn for the tour with a different keyboardist, and it looks like, only superficially of course, that momentum was not lost. The Barenaked Ladies are full of energy and there is never a dull moment in Barenaked in America. The performances are nicely put together, and often amusing and the interviews (especially the one with Robertson on a toilet) are hilarious. The Barenaked Ladies' good, humorous attitudes and down-to-earth personalities hold up very nicely on the big screen, making for a very enjoyable film.