There is a fine line between “serious documentary” and “rabid attack on alleged American Nazis based on spurious claims.” Documentary maker John Hankey apparently never noticed that line when he tripped over it and brought his conspiracy theory into the land of the ludicrous.
It’s not that conspiracy theories are bad things. Some of them inform us or introduce new thinking, others entertain about long-forgotten historic events, while others make us laugh out loud. The theory that John F. Kennedy, Jr., may have been assassinated is an interesting one because of the Kennedy family history and the viewer’s knowledge that it could happen.
The Assassination of JFK Jr. does not serve itself well. With animations an eight-year-old could have accomplished with a PCjr and the inclusion of cartoon characters from The Simpsons and The Fairly Odd Parents, it provokes laughter instead of deep consideration of its premise. Inflammatory claims, outrageous insults, and baseless assertions round out the “evidence.” Because it is all so blatant, The Assassination of JFK Jr. provides the audience with an entertainment vehicle equal to an Ed Wood movie. It may be bad, but it’s hilariously so.
Tying in the death of JFK Jr., the assassinations of JFK Sr., and RFK (yes, even Lincoln!), and the tragedy of 9/11, The Assassination of JFK Jr. is little more than an overdone rant, like the ravings of a lunatic (if lunatics still rave). Its sole redeeming value is that it may inspire some viewers to do a little research on their own into this American tragedy, ascertaining if the information provided—while stimulating—is factual. As an alternative to watching a ridiculously bad movie for laughs, it amuses; as serious journalism, it fails.
More specifically, it fails spectacularly. The juvenile assaults on the documentary makers’ “persons of interest” are funny because they are so inexpertly done. Photographs of Bush family members are treated to bushy mustaches and accompanied by the theme from The Godfather, while most of the other alleged conspirators are wearing red armbands with swastikas. Like so many of the visuals, these are Photoshopped in, and one hopes their amateurish look was intentional, although the silliness does nothing to promote confidence in the allegations made. The verbal assaults are so extreme, they come across as an attempt at humor.
Important aspects of the “evidence” are poorly thought out hypotheses which have specious foundations. For example, JFK Jr. would not have committed suicide because he was young, rich, successful, and handsome and it would ruin his cousin’s wedding; or that there was no way Carolyn would get on board the plane without a flight instructor after John had been in a mini-plane accident three weeks previously and broken his foot or ankle (or maybe both).
The narrator advises the audience, if they doubt him, “Just ask any married man.” He’s never witnessed a situation where a wife says, “Fine, whatever,” in response to something stupid her husband is demanding, just to shut him up. It could’ve been followed by something like “I’ll go in your stupid plane if that makes you happy, but don’t blame me if we all end up dead.”
Although some of the “facts” presented about the night Kennedy, his wife, and sister-in-law literally dropped off the radar are indeed facts (without quotation marks), most of the substance of The Assassination of JFK Jr. is insubstantial. Not wanting to get lost in the “swamp of facts,” it manufactures a morass of innuendo, half-truths, and outright goofiness. Fortunately, it includes no extras.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent/stream The Assassination of JFK Jr.? Yes. Surprised? As a reliable piece of reporting, I wouldn’t, but as an exposé that approaches the level of Reefer Madness it’s hilarious. Watch it with friends and lots of popcorn to throw at the screen.