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Anyone who’s read one of those interminable Bob Dylan interviews and felt closer to God will delight in Masked and Anonymous. The film, scripted by the legendary songwriter along with Seinfeld veteran Larry Charles, is another example of how, when freed from musical constraints, Bob Dylan, Genius, often mutates into Bob Dylan, Blowhard. A bleak mood piece that takes place in a war-torn “fictional America”—though everyone speaks English, the feel is more South America than North—Masked and Anonymous at least leaves the gate respectably, telling the story of two promoters, Uncle Sweetheart (John Goodman) and Nina Veronica (Jessica Lange), who are desperate for a headliner to rescue a poorly planned benefit concert. It’s never stated whom the benefit is for, but it’s clear that the political climate is explosive: Posters of a mustachioed, Hussein-like leader cover the gritty streets, counterrevolutionaries are afoot, and our slight hero, Jack Fate (Dylan), has to be sprung from jail to play the show. But once we’re introduced to the full slate of co-stars—including Jeff Bridges, Penélope Cruz, Luke Wilson, Val Kilmer, Cheech Marin, Chris Penn, Ed Harris, Angela Bassett, Giovanni Ribisi, and Mickey Rourke—all semblance of narrative disappears, and the movie descends into a speechifying circus. There’s lots of talk about seeking truth, finding happiness, and how gosh-darn difficult all this life business is anyway. Watching is akin to sitting in a bar with a bunch of drunken gasbags: Everyone’s angry, and everyone knows better than you. As Fate, Dylan mostly stands around with his 10-gallon hat and pencil ‘stache, taking it all in with his purportedly wise eyes. Every once in a while he’ll join in the bullslinging with such solemn tripe as “Ever heard of cellulose? Cows can digest it, but you can’t—and neither can I.” Better to get thee to a Dylan collection: The handful of times that he plays, whether “Dixie” or one of his own, are instant reminders of how you get the star power required to make a vanity project this fantastically disastrous. —Tricia Olszewski