The Smithereens found esteem for their smart, hook-laden songs like "Blood and Roses," and the film makes good use of the band's songbook: The pensive tune "Cigarette, Cigarette" accompanies the chain-smoking DiNizio as he waits to see if his application is challenged. The first half shows almost nothing but DiNizio playing small venues while on tour, and apart from a rare strategic phone call or meeting, has much in common with the average rock "road" movie.
While many rock musicians embraced Ralph Nader's presidential bid, DiNizio's pro-gun, pro-death penalty views are more conservative. In his campaign DiNizio seeks the support of Ted Nugent while refusing to endorse right-winger Pat Buchanan's presidential run at the top of the Reform Party ticket. There's high drama in footage from the Reform Party convention as the "Buchanan Brigade" stages an unfriendly takeover, but DiNizio seems nowhere near the place.
Mr. Smithereen is at its best when DiNizio begins campaigning in earnest, airing a cheap, gonzo TV ad, crooning for passersby in the street and singing the National Anthem at a hockey rink. On election night, when the first poll results appear online, DiNizio gives an incredulous but hearty laugh on learning that he received 29 votes. His actual total was closer to 20,000, with the winner, Democrat Jon Corzine, spending a reported $80 million for 1.5 million votes.
Giving an audience a context for the escalation of campaign spending, Mr. Smithereen Goes to Washington makes an effective point about the influence of big money when running for office. And, in scenes with DiNizio singing at tiny venues like a $1 movie theater, has a few comic moments worthy of This is Spinal Tap.
IMAGE Film & Video Center screens Mr. Smithereen Goes to Washington Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. at the Echo Lounge, 551 Flat Shoals Road, $5. 404-352-4225.
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