- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2008

“CSNY Deja Vu” had all the fixings of an exercise in boomer vanity and hippie preening: Fat, balding, graying rockers recapture the spirit of the ‘60s, apply it to a new generation and another foreign war. Gas up the bus. Turn on the cameras. Add water, stir.

Yet because Neil Young is a genuine populist who has always kept a healthy distance from effete New Left radicalism, the movie, which he directed under his “Bernard Shakey” nom-de-cinema, is more reflective than self-congratulatory, and as amusing as it is provocative.

For all of its indignation at the Bush administration and the war in Iraq, “CSNY” asks some tough questions about David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Mr. Young as they set out on their 2006 “Freedom of Speech” tour.

Like: Is it right to make millions from what Mr. Stills calls a “political cartoon” when that money could be going to antiwar candidates’ coffers? Can our vaudeville act live up to the nobility of the soldiers and dead soldiers’ mothers in whose name we’re supposed to be protesting?

And do we physically still have what it takes to do this?

Early on, Mr. Stills takes an ignominious tumble onstage in Toronto, pridefully refusing a hand-up from a roadie.

Come what may, it seems the old boys are going to go down singing.

The group clearly settles into a musical groove, even as it grapples with the implications of its larger mission. Mr. Young and editor Mark Faulkner happily deviate from standard-issue tour documentation. “CSNY’s” performance pieces are intercut with man-on-the-street reactions gathered by journalist Mike Cerre, who had been an embedded television reporter in Iraq.

After smooth receptions from Canadians and blue-staters, such songs as “Let’s Impeach the President” provoke a counterprotest, if you will, from a shut-up-and-sing faction in Atlanta. A few shout expletives and raise their middle fingers. A few others walk out.

But as long as the set-list cocktail is cut with “Southern Cross” and other CSNY hits, most seem happy; many are plainly moved. When the group begins meeting actual veterans, from Iraq and Vietnam alike, the tour and the movie find their validation.

“CSNY” has its annoying tics. There’s at least one too many bucolic prairie highway scenes, and I still can’t figure out why a bottle of Fiji water was blotted out, but Mr. Nash’s XM Satellite Radio T-shirt is proudly displayed.

Worse, the centerpiece of the ‘06 tour was Mr. Young’s “Living With War,” which, even in retrospect, is not a very good album.

But Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young remains one of rock’s greatest partnerships, and it’s heartening to see them hanging onto a remnant of relevance.

..1/2

MOVIES: “CSNY Deja Vu”

RATING: R (Profanity; war images)

CREDITS: Directed by Neil Young (aka Bernard Shakey). Written by Mr. Young and Mike Cerre. Produced by L.A. Johnson. Cinematography by Mike Elwell. Edited by Mark Faulkner.

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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