The road to Hell may be paved with good intentions, but the grout is still bad people doing bad things, and Mark Landsman’s Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer is the latest but surely not last entry into the How We Got Into This Hellscape documentary subgenre. Indeed, its opening credits are over flaming pieces of the newspaper wafting above a fire like so much yellow-journalism brimstone. At first, the story Scandalous tells is weirdly charming in its Citizen Kane retroness: Mafia scion Generoso Pope bought and rebranded the New York Enquirer in the 1950s, doing everything he could to sell papers regardless of taste. Pope struck gold with celebrity gossip which proved irresistible to shoppers waiting in checkout lines: Dolly Parton gets depressed! Elizabeth Taylor gets fat! It was venal at best, but in retrospect it was all fine and good until the apolitical Pope died in 1988, and the second half of Scandalous draws a line from the Enquirer’s right-wing, post-Pope owners to the Trump presidency. Scandalous is kinda fun until it becomes a reminder of why we can’t have nice things — and even then, the “nice thing” in question is the fuckin’ National Enquirer back when its worst sin was printing a picture of Elvis Presley’s corpse. Welcome to Hell.
Not rated. Opens Friday at the Landmark Opera Plaza.