Picks and Pans Review: Founding Brothers
The title of this two-part documentary has a nice ring of nobility, but Squabbling Brothers would have been just as accurate. Based on the 2000 book by Joseph J. Ellis, the four-hour film brings out the human drama in America's early history by focusing on the power struggles of George Washington's political heirs, principally Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. If you think hardball is something new, watch and learn how viciously our revered forefathers played the game, often slinging their mud anonymously or through surrogates.
Though Ellis's credibility wasn't enhanced by last year's revelation that he had been lying about his own military record, he's authoritative in leading a corps of on-camera experts that includes Adams biographer David McCullough. Brian Dennehy (Washington) and James Woods (Adams) stand out among the actors reading the great men's words in voice-over. The only notable flaw in the documentary is an overuse of silent recreations in which bewigged unknowns unconvincingly impersonate the historical figures.
Bottom Line: Well-founded