Something to Stand For with Mike Rowe

Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe delivers a message at the start of Something to Stand For, the documentary in which he stars, about the current political division in our country. He promises that the film wasn’t made for conservatives or liberals, Republicans or Democrats, but for ordinary people who feel a sense of patriotism. There are enough shots of the flag waving in slow-motion to satisfy the Fox News crowd, but by and large Rowe stays true to his promise. This is a nonpartisan-ish celebration of things that are great about America. And for that reason, it’s a shame the movie doesn’t work a little better.

Rowe sits behind a desk on the stage of an empty theater. He begins to tell curious, little-known stories about historical figures which are then dramatized by actors. (When they speak, it’s still Rowe’s voice we hear reciting the dialogue, which is slightly disorienting at times.) One is about a radio announcer who ad libbed the play-by-play of a baseball game when he didn’t have details; another deals with a woman who put her performance dreams on hold to work for NASA. The hitch is that he doesn’t tell you who the story is about until the end. Each one is designed to showcase a remarkable facet of the individual(s) involved.

In between those stories, Rowe walks around Washington, DC, talking to veterans, visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Monument, and reflecting on the greatness of our country.

Well, I agree. America is a pretty great country, despite our problems. Having a movie designed specifically to remind us of that fact is admirable. The problem is that Something to Stand For is uneven. A few of the stories are absolutely riveting, like the one about a young woman whose father forces her boyfriends to eat bull testicles to prove their worth. Wait until you learn who that tale is about. Others are needlessly stretched out to the point where you just want Rowe to make the revelation already.

A related issue is that the movie becomes repetitive after a while. Despite the DC-set interludes between stories, the format loses its novelty around the halfway point. Rowe and director Jonathan Coussens need an extra element to keep things fresh. Instead, Something to Stand For sticks with hitting the same general note again and again.

Production values are certainly very good on what must have been a low budget. Sequences depicting historical wars are particularly impressive. Mike Rowe’s down-home folksiness is appealing, as well. There’s definitely stuff to enjoy here because the tales do, in fact, celebrate America nicely. A movie is a sustained experience, though, and the format of Something to Stand For isn’t developed enough to warrant a 96-minute running time.

out of four

Something to Stand For with Mike Rowe is unrated but contains some off-color humor. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.

© 2024 Mike McGranaghan