Jim Brown's rousing but one-sided documentary dotes on Seeger so thoroughly, it makes you want to retreat to his Hudson Valley log cabin and never spend another dime, unless it's on a Karl Marx book. A banjo prodigy from his early years, Seeger's trademark songs ("Turn, Turn, Turn," "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" and many others captured here in riveting, mostly unseen concert footage) were the framework for the folk movements during World War II and Vietnam. His unwavering, often Communist views earned him simultaneous censure and celebration, yet here, we see mainly the latter. Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie wax nostalgic on Seeger's heyday; lifelong admirer Bruce Springsteen intones on government oppression of anti-establishment beliefs; and, in an electrifying, grainy Johnny Cash Show clip, the Man in Black himself tells Seeger he's "one of the greatest Americans ever."
Cash's praise underlines the central point of Brown's film: how could this tirelessly old-school frontiersman — who still, at age 88, fells trees and lives without running water — be considered "unAmerican"? His feats rival those of saints, from supporting Paul Robeson at the 1949 Peekskill concert riots to purifying the once-stagnant Hudson River; George Pataki even shows up to hail Seeger for the latter act.
Aside from a few mild critiques suggesting that Seeger favors activism over family, the film serves only to extol an already highly extolled figure; it never, for instance, probes more deeply into the effect that Seeger's steadfast nonconformity had on his children and ever-patient wife. Furthermore, the injustices Seeger faced, such as HUAC scrutiny and blacklisting during the McCarthy era, are presented as if they were small obstacles to his eventual legendary status. Although inspirational, the film's simple agenda lacks the power of its subject.