I mentioned in my Hoop Dreams review that the snub by the Academy of that film for the Best Documentary award was part of the reason they revamped how they chose the nominees from then on. I neglected to mention the other half of that reason; there were two films the public generally agree were snubbed that year: Hoop Dreams, and this one, Crumb, the story of the life of low-key cartoonist Robert Crumb, who has probably one of the most humorous and noteworthy last names I’ve come across in a while.
When an average moviegoer thinks of a documentary film, the look and feel and material presented, I’d imagine the archetype they conjure in their minds would look a lot like Crumb. Very silent, very professional, with absolutely no frills or shiny baubles to keep the layman’s interest going; this is a story about a man, not a big, flashy Hollywood style fictional farce. Not that those kind of films are bad, quite the opposite, but one can’t help but look at other movies this way after seeing a film like Crumb, and the way it presents itself. The production value was pretty much non-existent; it was a standard camera, filming real world locations with an eye for accuracy rather than showmanship. Still, there were a few shots that I saw that were thrown in there to add to the storytelling aspect of the narrative, and such shots often has different camera angles and out-of-the-norm choices made by the director or production team, so it wasn’t all absent.
This is gonna sound worse than I mean it, but Crumb is one of the prime examples of the mindset of a documentary to present information rather than explicitly entertain the viewer. What this meant was, about 20 minutes in, I felt like I was 40 minutes in. Compound this over the entire running time, almost two hours, and you have quite a tough exercise to be had here. The thing with Crumb was, it was really very good, and for the type of documentary that it was, and that I’ve laid out in this review, it sits unquestionably near the top of the metaphorical pyramid. But for all its virtues, for everything that it does well, it just wasn’t entertaining at all; it was a downright slog to get through. As I’ve mentioned numerous times, the prime factor for me in how I arbitrarily rate a film is its entertainment value, plus or minus a point or two for exemplary or sub-par features. Crumb essentially ended up in what I amounted to the highest possible rating I could give a non-entertaining movie, which is both a compliment and a detraction. Take what I’ve said to heart if you do decide to give this one a try; like I said, it’s very good, but it’s just a very hard one to get the average person to sit still for.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10