While ultimately the Ron Howard documentary Made In America is just a concert film about last year's Jay Z-sponsored, Jay Z-headlined, Budweiser-backed festival in Philadelphia, the film--which premieres in October on Showtime--has a trailer that makes it look downright epic.
Over ominous tones, the cheers and "What's up, Philadelphia???" stage chants give way to a gravelly voice intoning the words, "This festival's Jay Z's vision," in a way that makes it sound like Chris Cooper's character from The Muppets strongly disapproves of that. There's a thud, and then that segues into Philly mayor Michael Nutter declaring, "We've never done anything like this before," on a flickering television screen. As the stage is erected, British singer-songwriter Rita Ora explains that "People need something to believe in right now."
It's perhaps a bit of an overblown treatment for a movie that, ultimately, just documents an incredibly rich, famous, beloved, and powerful rapper's determination to put on a big concert--sponsored heavily by Budweiser--in a city that is happy to have him there. But if you can't accept a little bit of mythologizing from Jay Z and the director of The Da Vinci Code, then who can you accept it from?
Beyond the the clumsy attempts to connect the limited struggle of millionaire musicians to put on a concert with the more, shall we say, sympathetic struggles of countless Americans still dealing with a poor economy, the Made In America trailer offers a lot to look forward to: great-sounding performances from Hov, Pearl Jam, Run DMC, and Skrillex; wise words from Reverend Run and Daryl McDaniel of Run DMC about the power of music; shots of cranky, old, white neighbors complaining about the noise; an interlude in which Ron Howard learns about dubstep; and conflicts like "Skrillex has to perform inside his spaceship!"
It may be overblown, but that is part of what the words "Made in America" mean, too--and when your guides through that include Jay Z, Ron Howard, and Run DMC, that's not really something to complain about.