Though originally conceived as a concert movie, Ron Howard's Made In America plays more like an old-fashioned mystery yarn – the mystery being why the film was ever made and what we're supposed to take from it.
Ostensibly, Howard sets out to document superstar rapper Jay Z's attempts to stage a music festival unlike any other, but while he succeeds in immortalising some of Jay's more pompous philosophical musings ("Everything you do affects the energy of the world") he fails to explain why the festival – also titled Made In America – is anything more than a heavily branded imitation of Coachella.
Perhaps, as Howard argues, the brilliance of the festival lies in its showcasing of a broad range of genres on a single stage (Odd Future and Pearl Jam share a bill). But isn't that the case at pretty much any music festival? This year's Reading festival lineup features both Die Antwoord and the Kooks, lest we forget. Even Made In America's title seems confused: acts such as Run-DMC are American through and through, but outdated Swedish five-piece the Hives aren't even signed to a US record label.
Apparently blind to any such quibbles, the film is almost embarrassingly reverent to its subject, slipping into a slow-motion reverie every time Jay Z interacts semi-awkwardly with a fan or voices his vision of a more productive America. Occasionally, it jolts into life as a more provocative idea skirts around the frame – Odd Future's Tyler, The Creator is pithily accurate on the racial makeup of your average music festival audience – but such moments are quickly abandoned in favour of further easy platitudes (and Skrillex teaching Howard how to make EDM). Ultimately, the film amounts to little more than a feature-length advert for the Jay Z brand, with Ron Howard on hand to play the role of Kool-Aid monitor. For all the effort expended to convince us otherwise, it seems that all that's really being Made In America is money.
DVD, Signature Entertainment
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