Like Any Given Sunday, a bad movie that is occasionally engaging but makes you feel guilty for being engaged, Oliver Stone’s The Doors is indulgent, dizzying and vapid. The caricature of James Morrison invades Val Kilmer, who gives an embarrassing, showy performance. Kilmer’s idea of Morrison is little more than a faraway stare and a lycanthropic lope. So perpetual is Kilmer’s saunter that he presents less Lizard King, more inebriated catwalk model.
The film almost stops dead in its tracks a third in with a ridiculous overlong band “trip” to the desert for some peyote and pretentious native American b.s. The Doors emerge from this interminable detour performing a live version of a song as silly and overlong as the movie, “The End.” All time taken away from the only story you want to see about a marginal rock talent: rise to fame, drugs, booze, chicks, and then, crash and burn.
Stone is so enamored of his subject he not only photographs him lovingly, he actually takes the singer’s poetry seriously. Morrison is such an obvious talent Stone felt he could dispense with any back story for him. We don’t know much about his early life (except he once saw a dead Indian by the road during a family trip) because Stone is in such a hurry to show us this avant garde pioneer, a guy who riffed “mother, I want to f### you” right into the director’s heart.
We get a few fun moments, snapshots of nostalgia from the 60s, like the Ed Sullivan performance. But even that has to be gussied up and romanticized. The Doors were asked to forego the line “girl we couldn’t get much higher” from their hit, “Light my Fire.” They happily did so in rehearsal, but during a lethargic live performance, Morrison forgot and sang it. Not good enough for Stone. In the film, Kilmer lectures the band on kowtowing to “the Man” and then belts it out as a taunt just to show those suits what for. Then he starts hip swiveling, sending lily-livered execs into apoplexy.
As Morrison descends into the fat, bloated bore he would become, visions of a dour Indian pop up. In the desert. During gigs. Even before meeting Andy Warhol (portrayed by Marty McFly’s father). When unintentionally funny imagery isn’t on screen, the picture is a crashing bore. Morrison always was a pompous dick and a medium talent at best. He never really merited the Stone treatment. Or maybe that is exactly what he deserved.