In Theaters: “Magic Trip”

Just when the festival-goers are anticipating the third Alex Gibney film of the year (hockey doc “The Last Gladiators,” which bows at Toronto next month), regular folk finally get to see the Oscar winner’s first (on the big screen): “Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place” debuted at Sundance back in January and is now hitting theaters in NYC, San Francisco, Berekely and Santa Cruz. Other engagements start next weekend and continue through October (see play dates here). Check out the trailer here.

Co-directed by Alison Ellwood, the doc chronicles Kesey’s cross-country road trip with his Merry Pranksters and their rainbow-colored bus, Further, in 1964. It has actually been on VOD for over a month now, so I guess this isn’t the first time regular eyes have their chance to see it. Anyway, I reviewed the flick back in March from the Miami International Film Festival, and here’s an excerpt:

I don’t see the point. Is its supposed to be a Kesey biopic? Another unneeded celebration of the 60s? A pseudo adaptation of Wolfe’s book? I guess we can later appreciate this doc more once an actual dramatic adaptation of “Electric Kool-Aid” is produced as promised/threatened.

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Trailer: Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood’s “Magic Trip”

I know, another documentary romanticizing the 1960s. But Alison Ellwood and Alex Gibney’s “Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place” is worthwhile if you’re a fan of the author/hippie icon and the legend of his Merry Pranksters and you want to check out never-before-seen footage of their 1964 cross-country trip in the famous psychedelic bus (“Furthur”). It’s kind of like an illustrative supplement to Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” Not that you needed one. But who wouldn’t like to watch home movies made by their favorite literary characters, real and fiction?

So check out the trailer at iTunes, where you’ll also be able to rent the film beginning July 1. That’s a whole month before it hits theaters on August 5.

Miami 2011: “Magic Trip”

I mentioned in my Miami International Film Festival doc preview that Alison Ellwood and Alex Gibney’s “Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place” was not one of my most anticipated. I hadn’t heard good buzz at Sundance on the film, and I’m not a huge fan of Gibney lately anyway. Also, his doc on Hunter S. Thompson, “Gonzo,” was a huge disappointment for me, so I was expecting something similar here. Well, I found myself at a screening of the film last night, and I didn’t hate it. It’s far more satisfying than the Thompson film. But I also came away wondering what it’s really about, if anything. If it’s just a way of finally presenting the footage that Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters shot during their iconic 1964 psychedelic bus trip, I wish it was much simpler.

It’s a shame the old films, which don’t look nearly as bad as I’d heard, don’t feature synched audio. That would have made for something great, left alone save for some expert editing to give it a narrative flow. Enough people have read Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” to fill in the specifics of what’s going on, and if not then it could at least be a mere verite record of the time and events. But Gibney and company love voice-over, so I’d never imagine them letting material like this go without lots of narrated commentary. At least the voice-over stuff here is more directly from people involved and relatively contemporary of the footage itself. Of course, I wouldn’t have known it wasn’t recently recorded interviews if Ellwood hadn’t mentioned it after the screening.

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