> Volume 6 > Number 17


John Landis

Michael Bennett

Release: 19 Jun. 04



John Landis’ documentary on the art of selling cars could be the most depressingly boring films of the year. Not only are the moments of intended levity painfully unfunny, but most of the characters he’s celebrating are annoying and cloying.

The central subject is Michael Bennett, a so-called slasher in the car business who travels to remote car dealerships around the country to perform sales that would be otherwise impossible. That this man, who could be the seediest, most dishonest looking person I’ve ever seen, has a reputation for convincing people of his sincerity is testament, I suppose, to either my cynicism or his talents. Bennett’s been called to urban Memphis, where no one has the cash to buy a car unless it’s the $88 car in the advertisements. In other places, he can get people to buy a car while they hope to win the $88 clunker –- in Memphis, they can only buying that cheap car.

And as Landis celebrates Bennett, finding his callow dishonesty to be respectable even if it’s not unlike the “lies” he begins the film with from Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, I could only feel horrible for the Memphis car dealers who have little money to take care of their dealership and gambled on Bennett to change things. A follow-up during the credits might have helped, if not for the fact that it would likely state that Landis’ beloved Bennett caused the car dealership to go out of business, and the kindly men we met from the place to have started looking for their own $88 lemon

©2004, David Perry,, 23 April 2004