Eric D. Snider

America's Heart and Soul (documentary)

The problem with "America's Heart & Soul" is not its message, which is that America is a land of opportunity full of diverse, salt-of-the-earth people. The message is fine. The problem is that simply stating a message over and over again for 88 minutes does not a movie make. That, my friend, is boring.

Director Louis Schwartzberg, bless his heart, loves his country so much he composed this love letter to her. The film is full of beautiful vistas and nice-seeming folks, each of whom gets four or five minutes of screen time before we move to the next one. We meet a cowboy in Telluride, a weaver in the Appalachians, a Vermont dairy farmer, a New York City bicycle messenger -- dozens of artisans, tradesmen and laborers, all doing their thing, all enjoying their freedoms, all reminding us of America's most inspiring melting-pot characteristics.

But there is no point to it all, other than to say America is great. Which, again, is a perfectly reasonable thesis -- one I agree with -- but it makes for a lousy movie. Movies needs stories, character arcs, SOMETHING. "America's Heart & Soul" only sticks with its subjects long enough to tell us who they are, not to show them learning, acting or changing. There are no plots or story lines. It's an endless series of snapshots tied together only by a loose thread of patriotism. Singing a few rounds of "The Star-Spangled Banner" is much more stirring, and doesn't take nearly as long.

Grade: C-

Rated PG, a little very mild profanity, minor thematic elements

1 hr., 28 min.

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