Mixed or average reviews - based on 16 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 16
  2. Negative: 0 out of 16

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Critic Reviews

  1. 80
    If your sole image of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner is that of a lanky, silk-jammied sybarite strolling the grounds of his mansion with a jiggling blond on either arm, Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel will knock your socks off.
  2. Yet as ridiculous as Hefner's life sometimes seems, he has been an exemplary citizen, as this documentary by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Brigitte Berman spells out.
  3. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Watching the film is like reading Playboy for the articles.
  4. The film is at its most potent delineating Hefner's role in the American civil rights movement, going beyond the pages of his magazine.
  5. As for the man who invented it all, he remains a mystery in the film, living out his days in sybaritic bliss.
  6. Unfortunately, Berman skips past the darker implications of Hefner's sexual universe and omits discussion of how the periodical business -- and access to erotic imagery -- has changed in the Internet age. Still, the movie remains an involving look at an American icon as well as an adept snapshot of our national zeitgeist from the McCarthy era through the Reagan years.
  7. The Hefner we meet here is the likable rogue we already know.
  8. Hugh Hefner has earned the gift of a fawning, non-confrontational greatest hits package and that's exactly what he's received, even if it's not what we necessarily wanted. As such, this will only preach to the converted (and maybe the perverted) and is best suited to DVD or cable.
  9. 50
    One wants to find enlightenment - or at least entertainment - in this reconsideration of Playboy and of Hefner. But it's tainted.
  10. The title – Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel – is fine as far as it goes. But if you leave out "octogenarian mammophile" and "calendar fetishist," you leave something essential out of the story.
  11. Reviewed by: Rob Nelson
    This fawning docu goes to lengths to portray the octogenarian Playboy magazine founder as among the greatest figures of 20th-century American popular culture, while only cursorily acknowledging his status as a pioneering softcore pornographer.
  12. 50
    At 84 he describes himself as being kept alive by young women's laughter and infernal baby-talk, marking off perhaps his final, groaning aspirational standard. Almost makes me feel sorry for those men still trying to keep up.
  13. 50
    A very mixed bag. Despite some faint gestures in the direction of journalistic balance, it plays a lot like a two-hour infomercial for the Playboy publisher's historical importance, philosophical depth and personal greatness.
  14. 50
    Playboy "gave us some of the best literature of our time," opines noted literary critic Tony Bennett, among a cast of mostly ridiculous and redundant talking heads.
  15. If any life story should make for a compelling biography, it's certainly Hugh Hefner's. Unfortunately, this love letter is so lacking in any edge, the end result is not just unsexy but unforgivably staid.
  16. A proper profile of Hefner would start and end with sex, and not merely glance on casualties like Dorothy Stratten (and even the loveless Hef himself). The movie can't seem to get it up.

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