Grand Theft Parsons

When legendary country musician Gram Parsons, member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, died in 1973 of a drug and alcohol overdose, his longtime friend and manager Phil Kaufman stole his body in order to fulfill a pact the two formed. This weird road trip is the basis for Grand Theft Parsons, one of those films that is believable only because it was based on actual events. The most surprising aspect of Grand Theft Parsons is Johnny Knoxville. This is the first dramatic (well, mostly dramatic) role for Knoxville (Men in Black II, Walking Tall), and he acquits himself decently. This may seem like a strange thing to say, but under the right director, Knoxville may be able to turn in a great dramatic performance. Heck, it worked for Adam Sandler.

Otherwise, this is a slight movie on nearly every account. Grand Theft Parsons is one big road trip by Knoxville, Parsons' corpse, and Larry Oster-Berg (Michael Shannon, Bad Boys II, Kangaroo Jack), a man Kaufman tricks into using his hearse. Oster-Berg is a drugged out hippie, somewhat oblivious to the world around him, and reluctant cohort for Kaufman. Because Kaufman stole the body, he needs to make sure the police and Parsons' family (who wants a proper burial) do not catch him. He also needs to elude Parsons' scheming ex-wife Barbara Mansfield (Christina Applegate, Wonderland, View from the Top), who is carrying around a handwritten will stating she receive all of Parsons' estate. And while Parsons' drug and alcohol use made his death expected, it still came as a shock and eye-opener to Kaufman.

Kaufman refuses to say what he wants to do with the body, only that he made a pact with Parsons and needs to go to Joshua Tree. Oster-Berg serves as comic relief and foil to a more serious Kaufman. Director David Caffrey (On the Nose, Divorcing Jack) and screenwriter Jeremy Drysdale made one of those semi-wacky road-trip movies, solemn and surreal at the same time. On this level, Grand Theft Parsons is enjoyable. It's one of those small movies that people can appreciate if they stumble upon it by accident, and have no clue what the plot is about. As a memorial to Parsons, the film comes up short. It is more a chronicle of the circus around Parsons' corpse rather than a celebration of his life and music. Many people in the movie are awe-struck by the mention of Parsons' name, but Caffrey does not provide enough context to the casual viewer to cause him/her to care about who he was.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 28 minutes, Rated PG-13 for drug references and some language.

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