Dalton Trumbo, the author of Johnny Got His Gun and the Oscar-winning screenplay for The Brave One, is an interesting choice for a documentary subject. He's witty and erudite, and he left a library's worth of letters behind when he passed away, to say nothing of his courageous battles against the congressional Communist witch hunts and his subsequent career-ending blacklisting from the motion-picture industry.

Unfortunately, Trumbo is not that documentary. It's a self-congratulatory festival of overacting, starring Liam Neeson and Donald Sutherland reading Trumbo's letters with all manner of pauses, brow wrinkles, and wry smiles. Paul Giamatti, who reads a letter of complaint to the phone company, and Josh Lucas, who fumbles through a love letter, come across the worst, although Nathan Lane reading a funny, but incredibly creepy, letter from Trumbo to his son on the wonders of masturbation comes in a close third.

Aspiring documentarians should watch Trumbo as an example of what not to do: The film tells us how charming the man is, but they don't show us much of anything. Instead, it's just a bunch of famous people talking at you for an hour and a half about the First Amendment. This isn't a testament to an underappreciated talent, it's a boring-ass middle-school civics class.recommended