Bob Ross is having a moment, and this film both capitalizes on his continued popularity and critiques the multi-million-dollar business built up around him. Produced by Melissa McCarthy, her husband Ben Falcone, Steven Berger, and regular partner Divya D'Souza, Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal and Greed offers some revelations about the beloved celebrity, including details concerning his hair and a possible affair.
But the main claim of those interviewed is that Ross's former business partners, Annette and Walt Kowalski, unethically undermined competitors in the TV painting business and made away with sole rights to Ross's name and image after his death.
The fact that these are now owned and lucratively exploited by someone other than Ross's family, and in a way that would seem to contradict much of what Ross stood for and wanted himself, is an understandable source of heartache for his loved ones. It's also a juicy narrative hook for the film.
But the man also deserves a film focused more on his who he was, what made him tick, what he accomplished during his life, and what he meant to people, which is a lot judging by the testimonials here. The documentary's interest for the global audience of Ross fans may actually be limited by its dogged focus on the Kowalskis and the missing pieces of this puzzle (more than a dozen interviews were declined, we're told, including the Kowalskis).
His legion of fans should know about this saga, but the film could have struck a better balance.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.