The U.S. Vs. John Lennon

Opens at Metro and Uptown, Fri., Sept. 29. Rated PG-13. 99 minutes.

This generic VH1 rock-doc is snazzy, mawkish, and practically Pavlovian in recycling all requisite late-'60s images. Given its subject, though, this David Leaf–John Scheinfeld production is not only poignant but even topical. In the summer of 1971, counterculture dieties John Lennon and Yoko Ono relocated to New York. Jerry Rubin recruited them to appear at a "John Sinclair Freedom Rally" in liberated Ann Arbor. Two days later, Sinclair—serving a 10-year sentence for passing two joints to a narc—was freed, pending appeal. Follow-up plans were made for an anti-Nixon magical mystery tour to culminate at the 1972 Republican Convention. Next, John and Yoko played a benefit for the families of prisoners shot during the Attica uprising. A Feb. 4 memo from Sen. Strom Thurmond to Attorney General John Mitchell suggested Lennon be deported; a month later, the Immigration and Naturalization Service refused to renew his visa. Lennon eventually prevailed, but he was neutralized for the duration of the presidential campaign. The film establishes its protagonist as the most quick-witted of public figures. You needn't be half as sharp to grasp the parallels made to Bush's America. J. HOBERMAN

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