USA Today - 01/26/2001
"...A passionate portrait of dropping out and draft resistance that remains elegiac about the '60s without being overly sentimental..."
Arthur Penn's film, based on Arlo Guthrie's famous song of the same name, takes an exuberant look at the 1960s counterculture, draft dodging, social intolerance, law enforcement, and the hardships of growing older. Like the 18-minute song itself, ALICE'S RESTAURANT follows Arlo Guthrie (played by Arlo Guthrie) as he gets kicked out of school and travels back east to visit his old friends Alice and Ray Brock. After a huge Thanksgiving feast, Arlo is assigned the duty of disposing of the garbage. When he finds the local dump closed, he tosses the mound of garbage over a cliff, which leads to his arrest for littering. When Arlo is eventually drafted into the army and is filling out the paperwork, he finds a simple question on the back of one of the forms: Kid, have you ever been arrested' Arlo quickly discovers that the U.S. Army has a very low opinion of litterbugs.
The rambling song "Alice's Restaurant" was Guthrie's greatest success. The film version maintains the freewheeling spirit of the song while adding some new layers of character development and subplots, with Alice becoming a more central character to the story. Arlo Guthrie gives a fine performance as himself, and Pat Quinn is outstanding as the aging but bright-eyed Alice. Penn's direction balances a wild, fun-loving spirit with frank seriousness to make for a multi-layered and moving film.
The film ALICE'S RESTAURANT is taken from Arlo Guthrie's famous antidraft song of the same name. Guthrie plays himself in this story about his journeys and misadventures in college, traveling, playing music in New York City, and not quite dodging the draft. The movie, taking its cue from the song, is fun and whimsical while making a strong point about social issues, including Vietnam and free love. ALICE'S RESTAURANT is a counterculture event that should not be missed.
"Alice's Restaurant" was a seminal song in the 1960s, a social satire that humorously expressed youthful discontent with establishment values and the absurdity of its inflexible rules. In particular, the song protests U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, a critique that the film includes and extends.
Arlo Guthrie is the son of folksinger Woody Guthrie, whose own work explored the numerous personal tragedies that occurred during the Great Depression and who was equally critical of the business and government establishment.
The closing shot of the film was the longest track-and-zoom shot in film history at the time.
The real Alice that the song and movie are based on appears in the film as an extra in two scenes.