The Rainbow Man/John 3:16 Movie Review
Some 20 years after his heyday, Stewart appears on camera to give his testimony about that long-gone era, reading largely from his unpublished autobiography. Obsessed with fast cars and television, Stewart figured out that he could turn himself into a celebrity simply by building an easy-to-spot character in stadium crowds. It worked: At his first game, Stewart danced and flashed "V for victory" signs at the TV cameras, and afterwards, people stopped him on the street. More sporting events followed -- invariably sitting in the best seats -- and the media started to pick up on his act. After landing a Budweiser commercial, he headed to Hollywood and got an agent.
Stewart quickly became disillusioned with the idea of being a celbrity, and with his 15 minutes long since expired, Stewart found Jesus. He turned to signs and banners with "John 3:16" (and other verses) emblazoned on them, taking extreme lengths to make sure his message was seen. But the media tires of these antics, and he's eventually strong-armed into stopping. Stewart created a new character -- a fugitive from justice wanted for a string of bombings. The idea was to set off stink bombs with anti-Christian messages, which would spur the media to interview the radical apoocalyptic preachers he's chosen. This all ends badly in 1992, as his scheme spirals out of control and Rollen ends up in a room in a Los Angeles hotelroom, holding a hostage and demanding a three hour press conference to expound upon the end of the world, which he states is coming in six days. This isn't in the film (which was made in 1997), but Stewart had a parole hearing in March 2004 -- did he get out? Who knows?
Sam Green (The Weather Underground is his only other feature) doesn't offer much in the way of direction in this straightforward, 41-minute documentary. Talking heads (mainly Stewart himself) are interspersed with archival footage, and few surprises are in store for us -- with the major exception of the kooky story itself. Fortunately, Stewart's story needs little embellishment or The Kid Stays in the Picture-style histrionics, and Green wisely sticks with the program as he neatly wraps up the case. New on DVD, three of Green's short films are included here -- including one from 2004, which makes me wonder why on earth an update on Stewart isn't included!? This massive oversight excepted, Rainbow's a very worthwhile way to spent the better part of an hour.