A corrupt right-wing folksinger runs a crooked election campaign with only one freelance shit-stirring journalist is making a bid to stop him in his tracks reporter is trying to stop him.
This satirical mock documentary bids fair to be the Spinal Tap of the American political campaign until it takes such a sinister turn that it becomes more chilling than humorous.
In a confident writing/directing/starring debut from Player Tim Robbins, Bob Roberts is a right-wing "folk" singer and self-made millionaire with an image that evokes bits of Bob Dylan, fictitious 80s Man Gordon Gekko, Ross Perot and Attila The Hun. A British BBC Current Affairs type is making a television profile that chronicles the rise of this "man of the people" and his run for the US Senate.
Touring Pennsylvania for hearts and votes, boyish Bob ruthlessly works the crowds and plays to the cameras with charm, savvy, a cadre of sharp advisors (notably Ray Wise and Alan Rickman) and - crucially - the complicity of the media, who know a star when they see one, never mind what he actually represents. Bob, naturally, is against drugs and for photo opportunities with hospitalised kiddies. He is burbled about enthusiastically by plastic TV newspersons in a stream of smart cameos by hip participants like John Cusack, Susan Sarandon, Peter Gallagher and James Spader.
Most amusingly, the speciously candid tone apes D. A. Pennebaker's work on Dylan's Don't Look Back, dropping in this Bob's reverse social conscience songs with spoof LP covers like The Times They Are A-Changin' Back and a promo that duplicates Subterranean Homesick Blues with Roberts discarding lyric cards to his droning ode on stock market speculation.
Right-on liberal that he is, Robbins is, of course, preaching to the converted. But Robbins' points on pop politics are pertinent and well observed. And anyone with the wit to cast Gore Vidal as a beleaguered windbag liberal incumbent US Senator surely deserves your vote
An over-strung last act aside, this is funny, brilliant and sickening all at the same time.