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American: The Bill Hicks Story

4.4 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

American: The Bill Hicks Story brings to life the amazing true story of one of modern culture’s most iconic figures. Much more than just a comedian, Bill Hicks has become an inspiration to millions around the world. As a rebellious teenager, he discovered that comedy was a way to break all the rules, but then he found it could also open people’s minds. Bill’s comedy challenged the injustices of life head on, but his uncompromising approach met with conflict in America and it was instead on the international stage where he found fame. In 1993, on the verge of wider success, Bill fell ill with terminal cancer, but his timeless material has lived on, revered by comedians and audiences alike as the man who changed comedy forever. Taking documentary to a new level, American uses interviews, archive footage including many unseen performances, and stunning animation to bring Bill’s inspiring story to life, told for the first time by those that knew him best.

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The brief trajectory of Bill Hicks is a saga that has only grown larger since his death from cancer in 1994, with the comedian's brainily profane, take-no-prisoners approach attracting a fervent cult of admirers. For those fans, this loving film will serve as a further confirmation of Hicks's often blistering talents. Those on the outside, however, may find this an unsatisfactory entry point. As a documentary, it tends to tell, rather than show. Using an animated photo collage that recalls The Kid Stays in the Picture, codirectors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas have assembled a legion of family, friends, and fellow performers to wax rhapsodic about Hicks's turbulent life and times, ranging from his early success as a teenage performer, his struggles with drugs and alcohol, periodic brushes with stardom, and his final defiant rants against the establishment before succumbing to pancreatic cancer at the age of 32. While the passion of the filmmakers and participants is without question (particularly on the extended interviews included in the extra features), the performances shown unfortunately often fail to live up to the buildup, with such hallmarks as his famously scuttled last David Letterman appearance nowhere to be seen. The clips that are present, meanwhile, tend to favor the comedian's angrily self-righteous rants, rather than his more accessible--and often riotously filthy--comedy routines. Those already among the converted will find this reverent look back essential, but newcomers to Hicks's material may have some trouble seeing what the fuss is about.--Andrew Wright

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Various
  • Directors: Various
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 7, 2011
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004UA8D2I
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,333 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "American: The Bill Hicks Story" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Amazon Video
If you consider yourself a fan of the late Bill Hicks then this is a must see documentary. Very well put together as you get a chronological order of the events that took place on his rise to stardom. Included some early life and behind the scene details of Hicks' trials and tribulations. I thought the beginning of the film was a little slow but things quickly picked up as Hick's career started to bloom. Production did a good job including many of Bill's early and late footage of his shows. Fan or not, I think no one will be disappointed watching this film. Its unfortunate that we do not have enough people like Bill Hicks to invoke thought as well as put a comical light on issues that may normally bring about negative feelings. R.I.P.
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Format: Amazon Video
I saw it tonight on its second US release after NYC and before LA, in a small bar in Denton, Texas, surrounded by about 50 Bill Hicks fans, and if you get a chance to see it like that, do so. Next best, invite a few fans over to watch it, and rent it as Video on Demand.

It is an outstanding documentary, and it deserves to win all sorts of awards. And for true fans who think they have all the CDs and videos, you'll find enough new material to satisfy you as well.

Where are you now, Bill, when we need you so much? You're in this movie, and maybe you can still inspire people to stand up and be counted.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
In the booklet included with the new Blu-ray "American: The Bill Hicks Story", Mary Hicks, Bill Hicks' mother, is quoted as saying "When he got sick, Bill wanted me to help him file all of his photographs, and he showed me Hendrix and Dylan documentaries. I said, 'Bill, why are you showing me all of this?' and he said 'In case someone comes mom, and they want to make one about me.'" After watching this documentary on the late and brilliant comedian one has to wonder if the film makers would have been better off consulting Mrs. Hicks on the basics of telling compelling stories. As fascinating a subject as Hicks unquestionably is, this documentary proves to be an extremely disappointing dusting over of Hicks' career combined with an irritating level of gloss and flashy editing techniques which show a lack of respect for the subject in favor of displaying art school editing prowess.

The problem in reviewing a documentary such as "American" is many fans of Bill Hicks already know the back story of his life and career. There have been very good documentaries and books focused on this subject that do a fine job of divulging personal stories and anecdotes, and there are many bootleg videos and even commercially available dvd's that show Hicks in action on stage. "American" chooses to pick from these readily available sources to show the viewer the kind of comedian and voice he was. There are a few more rare performances shown, and those clips are definitely the highlight in this film, but for the most part one can't help but feel that old news is being rehashed constantly.
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Format: Amazon Video
I enjoyed this and have been wanting to watch for a while.

Hicks is one of those comedians that is a true mirror to our ridiculousness. He is someone that doses out tough love that we all need to hear and absorb. Plan on watching again.

And go buy his albums.
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Format: DVD
Writing from Austin, Texas (Bill Hick's home base), I must say I am saddened and outraged that this release has not been made available here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. It is no surprise that this is a UK import - they appreciated him more over there then they ever did here. Jolly good! I doubt this will ever get a stateside NTSC release. If you have a way to play PAL DVDs, then this is manna from heaven for any Bill Hicks fan. Kudos to the film makers for this awesome tribute to Mr. William Melvin Hicks! The graphics are unique and the film is a true testament to the impact Bill Hicks has had and continues to have as his words ring truer everyday.
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Format: Blu-ray
I approached this film half expecting a cash-in, as Bill Hicks' legacy seems to have become a lucrative commodity for some (e.g. 2003's Shock & Awe).

Happily, this is not the case & the film seems to be both a genuine and sincere homage to the man himself, but also a real attempt to bring something fresh & unseen to fan-boys (such as myself).

The plot is fairly simple - it starts off with his early years and ends with his death from cancer. In the process, they place each of the DVD's and CD's in context & show lots of interview clips of fellow comedians, friends & family.

So far, so predictable.

The great thing about this film though is that they have included many, many pieces of unseen footage & have strived to put him in the context of fellow comedians (all of whom are excellent - e.g. Jimmy Pineapple (esp the 'I am 'it'' routine))

The most original contribution that the film maker's have made is to take all the 100's of photos of Bill & turned them into action-stills. A lot of the material by the man is the same, but he always had a gift of being photogenic and hence this factor symbolises the director's efforts to bring something new to the table.

By no means is this film perfect & I have heard some people say 'It's not that good', but not from anyone who's actually seen it.
One thing I can pick out is that there is nothing about his relationships or Girlfriends that were so formative to much of his comedy (e.g. his Fiance Colleen McGarr).
There is also the fact that the film ends with the 'It's Just a Ride' scene, which is fast becoming cliche (e.g.
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