film reel image

film reel image

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something 2020 * * * 1/2 Stars


Sometimes it's a little unfocused, most of the time it's not. Sometimes there's present-day footage, most of the time it's archive footage. Sometimes there's a little over-padding in 93 minutes, most of the time you probably won't care either way. Yeah I'm talking about Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something, a documentary that acts just the way Chapin did in real life, exhaustively trying to do a lot in such a short period of time. 

Now I was 6-years-old when Harry Chapin passed (July 16, 1981 in a car accident). Obviously I didn't know much about him but over time I realized he was the guy that sang "Cat's in the Cradle". Through "Do Something" and other excerpts from stuff like good old VH1, I learned more and more about the wistful, Chapin mystique. He wasn't just a musician mind you, he was also a filmmaker, an activist, the insight behind USA for Africa, and a philanthropist. Watching Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something, you realize Harry knew he wasn't going to live a long life (a premonition perhaps?). In his thirty-eight years on earth, he still had the gumption to put out 11 albums and perform in thousands of concerts. Not too shabby. 

"Do Something" is a lot of docu for an hour and a half. It's not necessarily its downfall but its strength. The film doesn't really have a beginning, middle, or end. I mean you can turn it on, watch it from any point, and kind of feel like you're getting something, something that the late Chapin would be smiling down on. 

Added to that, "Do Something" is not flashy nor is it over-directed by rookie Rick Korn. You've got clips from the 70s and prior to and then you've got the present-time stuff. That's about it, no animation (ugh), no reenactments, no reckonings, no BS. How refreshing. What's more refreshing is how the people being interviewed were actually part of Chapin's life and not you know, other folk (critics, pundits, writers, blah blah blah). Billy Joel and Pat Benatar chime in but most importantly, it's Harry Chapin's family that gets to give voice to. "Harry, keep the change!" 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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