When I first read about this film and saw Johnny Depp’s name attached, I didn’t realize it was a documentary. Johnny Depp as Jim Morrison? It’s hard to imagine anyone giving a more interesting, more uncanny portrayal of Morrison than Val Kilmer did in Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “The Doors,” but hey, we’re talking about Johnny Depp, a guy who has, in my opinion, quite a bit more range. Alas, as intriguing as the possibility sounds, it’s a moot point.
Unlike “The Doors,” “When You’re Strange” is a documentary, not a biopic and Johnny Depp is the film’s narrator, not its star. The “star” here, of course, is Morrison himself and, to a lesser degree, his band ‘The Doors.’ In fact, if the trailer is any indicator, Depp is used sparingly and is likely attached—more than for any other reason—for promotional purposes.
As to the film itself, it purports itself as “the first feature documentary to tell their [‘The Doors’] story.” While I’ll not dispute that claim, nothing about this 2:00-minute clip looks terribly groundbreaking. That’s not to say the film won’t be entertaining, but ‘The Doors’—and especially, charismatic frontman Morrison—have been chronicled again and again.
The aforementioned “The Doors” film is just one of countless examples of the general media fascination that has surrounded Morrison and his band over the years. Like Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, James Dean and other superstars taken much too young, Morrison continues to intrigue the public. “When You’re Strange” looks to be the latest project attempting to keep his name alive and introduce him, perhaps, to a new generation. Not a bad thing, necessarily—Morrison is a charismatic figure—but not a particularly profound artistic endeavor either. Hardcore fans of Morrison’s music or anyone not familiar with his life will likely be pleased. For the rest of us, this will likely be a film we can live with or without.
“When You’re Strange” trips its way into theaters April 9.