Immediately after seeing The US vs. John Lennon, I reported back to my editor that the movie was perfectly okay, and that "I certainly wouldn't dissuade anybody from seeing it." Now, eight days removed, I can't think of a single compelling reason to encourage anyone to watch it—nor can I summon up any particularly compelling emotion about the film at all.
To write the following feels almost compulsory: John Lennon was equally long on charm and idealism, and as the casualties mounted in Vietnam and his love for Yoko Ono grew, he used his celebrity as a vehicle for promoting peace and love. His rationale was that since the media reported on every word that he said, he might as well trumpet his personal beliefs, and along the way, he became friends with a lot of enemies of the state, including Jerry Rubin and Black Panther Bobby Seale. Not surprising to anyone, he promptly made Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover's shitlist, his phones were tapped, and efforts were made to have Lennon deported. Plenty of talking heads show up here to offer their reflections on Lennon, including Angela Davis, Ron Kovic, Geraldo Rivera, Gore Vidal, and G. Gordon Liddy, who remains unwavering in his contempt for Lennon and his devotees.
Most of the movie, however, feels like an excuse to pair montages of '60s upheaval footage with songs like "Revolution" and "Instant Karma." Lennon's deportation trial is the only element of the movie that lives up to the film's title, and it makes up only the scant third act. The problem with The US vs. John Lennon is that there's hardly a movie here; it's more a portrait of Lennon's activist leanings. And it doesn't help that there's already a powerful documentary portrait of the best Beatle on video store shelves—it's called Imagine, and it's a much better film than this one.