Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Political Double Feature:
'Welcome to Mooseport' and 'Silver City'

Here are reviews of two politically themed comedies from 2004, one of which was dated the day it was released and will take a well-deserved place on the scrapheap of cinematic history even before the end of George Bush's term in office.

Welcome to Mooseport (2004)
Starring: Ray Romano and Gene Hackman
Director: Donald Petrie
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When a just-out-of-office US president (Hackman) moves to the small town of Mooseport to get away from his ongoing, bitter divorce, he is cajoled by both the city leaders and his publicists to run for election as mayor. However, the local plumber and hardware store owner (Romano) also decides to run for the office. What follows is a contest of political saavy and trickery vs. small-town heart and honesty.

There is nothing really surprising in "Welcome to Mooseport". It is a pleasant little film, with mild laughs, a fine cast of actors used well, and some nice messages about taking risks for the right reasons and not becoming so goal-focused or complacent that you don't take notice of the truly important things in life.

Even more pleasing, "Welcome to Mooseport" is one of the few comedies with a political theme that I've seen in recent years that isn't a ham-fisted, badly executed screed against the George Bush administration. In fact, if anything, Hackman's president is based on Bill Clinton, as he is a womanizer whose wife is divorcing him and fleecing him for all she can get due to his many extra-marital dalliances. (Although I'm drawing a comparison with Clinton, the set-up is general enough that the film might be amusing to audiences even a few years down the road.)

Silver City (2004)
Starring: Danny Huston, Chris Cooper, Richard Dreyfuss, Maria Bello, Daryl Hannah, and Billy Zane
Director: John Sayles
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

A press opportunity and campaign commercial shoot for dimwitted gubernatorial candidate Dickie Pilager (Cooper) is disrupted when a dead body is discovered. Take-no-prisoners campaign manager Chuck Raven (Dreyfuss) hires burned-out-reporter turned private detective Danny O'Brien (Huston) to investigage possible links between the Pilager family and the corpse so he can institute damage control if he needs to. O'Brien uncovers far more than anyone had expected, and he drawn into a high-stakes political conspiracy involving billion dollar real estate development deals and illegal alien smuggling.

That summary of "Silver City" maikes it sound far more interesting than it is. This 2004 movie is so heavy-handed in its political messages (Republicans/Conservaitves ALL bad and evil and corrupt and stupid, Democrats/Liberals ALL good and pure and civic-minded and brilliant); the satire not even approaching clever or insightful, but merely recycled George Bush jokes that were old in 2001; and the mystery that Danny O'Brien investigates is drab and ultimately of a "so what"? variety. (But, it mostly becomes that due to the unrelenting, hackneyed political screeds that passes for the script and plot in this piece of junk.)

Who knew that so many talented actors could be so blinded by their politics so as to not recognize this film for a piece of garbage when they read the script?

This could have been a decent political thriller with satirical overtones if it hadn't been helmed by what I can only assume are a bunch of frothing fanatics. "Silver City" is the political equivilant of a third-rate drama airing late at night that Christian cable channel--if you're a True Believer, you'll think it's thrilling and funny. If you're even the least bit able to see that politics and politicians is far from a black and white game, and that no one rises to the top by being an idiot, and that no one is pure evil or pure sweetness and light, you will find this film to be a total waste of your time.

The only positive thing I can say about "Silver City" is that the cast all turn in excellent performances. I particuarly enjoyed Danny Huston, Billy Zane, and Daryl Hannah. I might even have liked Chris Cooper if his character had been just a tad more original and better written... but he did what he could with the unfunny crap he was working with.

I think the many glowing and fawning reviews this movie--which stinks worse than the corpse that ruins Dickie Pilager's film shoot--can be used as evidence for right-wingers who like to cry about liberal media bias. Only someone who is so severely brainwashed they're a mind-numbed robot could give this film anything approximating a positive review.

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