If you’re a Doors fan, your inner Jim Morrison will be stoked by the vast archival footage in When You’re Strange. Be warned, however: this documentary doesn’t open any new doors, and, worse, it’s negligent in its history.
Director Tom DiCillo (Living in Oblivion) is an obvious fan, but he doesn’t know what to say about the band other than that they were great and envelope-pushing, so he interjects superfluous footage of Morrison cruising along a desert highway in a muscle car. The trippy scenes feel lifted right out of Oliver Stone’s 1991 bio-pic The Doors — which is ironic, because band member Ray Manzarek has tagged DiCillo’s vision “the true story of the Doors” and “the anti–Oliver Stone.”
About the smartest thing DiCillo may have done was to recuse himself as narrator. Johnny Depp brings a poetry to the task appropriate to the subject, and there are some great anecdotal nuggets (with Joplin and Jagger). But DiCillo, ever the meddler, just won’t let it break on through.
Editor's Note: In a previous version of this article, Ray Manzarek's name was misspelled as Ray Minaret. The correction has been made above.