In a fictional war-torn country, a concert promoter (a bearish John Goodman) attempts to put together a benefit to help the war’s victims. It’s all a dubious ploy to line his pockets, and none of the other characters is all that likable either. Jessica Lange plays his pill-popping partner, Jeff Bridges is an egomaniacal reporter who makes Geraldo Rivera seem magnanimous, Val Kilmer lurks in the wings as a grimy street philosopher, and Mickey Rourke plays a power-grubbing politician. Pulling the whole concert event together is the participation of long-absent rock legend Jack Fate, who’s played by a taciturn Bob Dylan. Dylan can’t act, and he doesn’t have to; his watery blue eyes still affect, and his music, which consumes most of his on-screen time, resonates with timeless grace.
Given a cast that also includes Penélope Cruz, Luke Wilson, Ed Harris, Angela Bassett, Cheech Marin, and Giovanni Ribisi, you’d hope for something rompish and Altman-like, but what director Larry Charles serves up is a turgid battery of humorless vignettes. Without Dylan’s music — and there are some creative modernizations of his classics — the whole tawdry spectacle might have been a Class A flop. (107 minutes)