All The King's Men

Sean Penn, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Patricia Clarkson, James Gandolfini

Directed by Steven Zaillian
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 1.5
Community: star rating
5 1.5 0
September 21, 2006

Overthought, overwrought and thuddingly underwhelming, this high-profile misfire makes a congealed gumbo out of Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer-winning 1946 novel and the Oscar-winning 1949 movie that followed it, sinking a classy cast in the goo. Sean Penn is dynamite as Willie k, the Louisiana politician (modeled on Huey Long) who makes it to the governor's mansion on the votes of his fellow "hicks," but the film's fuse just won't light.

A big surprise, because James Carville, who knows his way around the wonk hothouse, spearheaded the project. But in updating this tale of how and why power corrupts, from the Depression to the 1950s, writer-director Steve Zaillian (A Civil Action) replaces grit with grandiosity, shooting Willie's speeches like Nazi rallies. Miscasting also hurts. Jude Law in the pivotal role of Jack Burden, the newspaperman who works for Willie and loses his soul in the bargain, never looks as persuasively damaged as John Ireland did in the first movie. The fake Southern accent also defeats him, as it does Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins and especially James Gandolfini, who all figure in Willie's rise and fall. And New Orleans-born Patricia Clarkson, who delivers solidly as Willie's press wrangler, brings an authenticity to her role that emphasizes what the others sorely lack. But why go on? Talented people can screw up because, unlike hacks, they take big risks. This time the risk doesn't pay off.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Don't Dream It's Over”

    Crowded House | 1986

    Early in the sessions for Crowded House's debut album, the band and producer Mitchell Froom were still feeling each other out, and at one point Froom substituted session musicians for the band's Paul Hester and Nick Seymour. "At the time it was a quite threatening thing," Neil Finn told Rolling Stone. "The next day we recorded 'Don't Dream It's Over,' and it had a particularly sad groove to it — I think because Paul and Nick had faced their own mortality." As for the song itself, "It was just about on the one hand feeling kind of lost, and on the other hand sort of urging myself on — don't dream it's over," Finn explained.

    More Song Stories entries »