If you're the least bit familiar with the late writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell, then "The Hero's Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell" probably won't supply much new information. The documentary, which was directed by William Free and Janelle Balnicke, is strictly classroom stuff. And, as such, more than a little frustrating: You'd think the guy deserved better.
Still, as an introduction the film does a passable job. The filmmakers are devout Campbell fans and this makes up for a lot. You can even forgive them for fostering the impression that his most significant contribution was that his work was a great help to George Lucas during the writing of "Star Wars."
In a few of the scenes -- for example, those that show the man sitting by the fire explaining in the most matter-of-fact manner imaginable how the world works -- they do manage to convey the utter hard-rock common-sensicality of this man's mind.
Campbell's great strength, as a writer and lecturer, was the plain-speaking lucidity of his thought. And he presented his ideas so simply and casually that you feel like a dolt for not having thought of them yourself. This part of the movie is great fun, as are the snapshots of the young Campbell playing the sax in a jazz band and captaining his Columbia University track team. For a few moments, it puts you in the presence of the real thing: not some potty Shirley MacLaine-ish crystal-fondler but a tough-minded, intellectually honest, truly religious individual -- if you will, a highly evolved dude.
The Hero's Journey: The World of Joseph Campbell, at the Biograph, is unrated.