by Jeff Niesel
For the past month, the Cleveland Museum of Art has hosted a program called "Friday Night First Runs." It features local premieres of movies that have previously bypassed Cleveland during their theatrical runs. Tonight at 7, it's offering a screening of 2008's Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived, a documentary that suggests Vietnam wouldn't have become such a debacle had Kennedy not been assassinated. Here's our review of the film.
Virtual J.F.K.: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived (US, 2008) A potentially irresistible parlor game of a movie (“What would have happened if J.F.K. hadn’t been assassinated?”) is rendered borderline-tedious, thanks to a dry, academic approach and director Koji Masutani’s lack of cinematic imagination. Inspired by British historian Niall Ferguson’s concept of “counterfactual” history, Watson Institute visiting fellow Masutani takes a cursory glance at the major crises of Kennedy’s abbreviated presidency (the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall, et al) to buffer his theory that the war in Vietnam might never have escalated if Kennedy had lived — thanks to the young politico’s hard-nosed pragmatism. Despite some admittedly fascinating archival clips of combative Kennedy press conferences (and you thought Rush Limbaugh was hard on President Obama!) and an interesting attempt at portraying Hubert Humphrey as an unsung hero of the 1960s anti-war movement, Virtual J.F.K. is a bit of a slog, even with its relatively brief 80-minute running time. ** 1/2 (Milan Paurich)