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You Can Call Me Bill

Updated: Apr 30

William Shatner has always been one of the most entertaining interviews available. Self deprecating, full of himself and completely his own persona, he's quick witted and thoughtful.

So why does SO little of that come across in the new documentary, YOU CAN CALL ME BILL?

About twenty minutes in, all Shatner had talked about was trees and their mystical place in the universe. Okay.....It's as if Director Alexandre O. Philippe told him, "Bill, talk about anything except what your lifelong fans might be interested in...."

Philippe's done great work in the past. His film "78/52" about the Hitchcock film "Psycho" was fast paced and fascinating for film buffs.

Shatner eventually does start talking about some of his work, his inspiration as a youngster from the Westerns of the day and his early film work. When he does focus on his career, there are snippets of fun.

But just when it starts to get interesting, Shatner moves away from sharing anecdotes about filming and his co-stars and leans into esoteric views on the mesh that links the universe.

By the midway point of the film, I started to feel bad for Shatner. I can't blame him for this mess. If you hadn't seen him in years, one could assume that he's in his 90's and has slipped into incoherent ramblings without any regard for timelines or coherency. But I know better! I've seen interviews in the past few months where Shatner displayed the same quick wit, detailed memory of events and co-stars and a general sense of fun that Philippe and team have decided to leave on the cutting room floor.

Only in the final sequence about Shatner's recent trip to space does the film capture a sense of the actor's wonder and fascination with pushing the envelope.

I could watch three hours of Shatner cutting up about his Star Trek days, his TV career and some of the really bad B-movies he made. But 90+ minutes of rambling about trees and our connectivity to the Earth gets really dull, really fast.

Philippe compounds the issue with a complete lack of visual imagination.

If Shatner talks about a forest, we stare at one for four minutes.

Is this a movie or a screen saver?

The best parts of the film are a few filmed highlights from his recent one-man show. On stage, Shatner is hilarious, shows great comic timing and a connectivity with his audience. How I wish they just filmed that show instead of this bore fest.

The film's press bragged that it "strips all the masks away" from Shatner.

Did you also have to strip mine all the humor, wit, storytelling and charm out of the man?

I'd suggest everyone grab Shatner's book "Star Trek Movie Memories" for a hilarious take on all the behind the scenes production details and on set antics of his TV and film days. Any random chapter of that book surpasses this entire film at warp speed.


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