The Amazon Original Series draws from unprecedented access to more than 17,000 hours of footage and over 2,600 scrapbooks from Hefner's personal archives, chronicling the life of an American icon and the history of the brand he created.
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American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story is a docuseries combining archival footage, interviews and cinematic reenactments to tell the story of Playboy magazine's charismatic founder Hugh Hefner and his impact on global culture and history. American Playboy begins in post-war America and takes us through the launch of Playboy magazine in 1953 and the next six decades of Hefner's life and career. As he built his empire, Hefner became both a social justice advocate and a target of the conservative movement, battling with the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover while becoming an outspoken defender of civil rights.
It's a little like the director watched a documentary once and said 'Yeah, like the idea but ya know what would make this better - less analysis and more boobs'. It is a docu-drama about Hugh Hefner, so there's no point getting upset by naked ladies or the objectification of women, that's sort of the point. But that's no excuse for the total lack of insight, cultural analysis or fresh perspectives. In fact, it's the flimsy content in the serious bits that makes the parade of girls feel skeezy. You can't help feeling they've been put in less because that was the reality of the situation (though I'm sure it was) and more because the writer/ director/ actors couldn't think of another way to fill screen time.
If you're hoping for a documentary version of Madmen - sumptuously stylish but also searingly insightful about the mindset of the era - this isn't it. The snazzy suits and tasteful furniture is there, but none of the intelligent observation. It's a shame. This is a fascinating period in American cultural development and, love him or hate him, HH was at the heart of it; perhaps not driving things single handed in the way this documentary is desperate to suggest, but defiantly right there in the middle. If you love the Hef and already buy into his myth you'll probably like this. If you are expecting genuine insight, or even just halfway decent acting, then this falls flat on it's bunny-tailed behind.
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