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20th Century Fox

Official Site

Director: Donald Petrie

Producers: Marc Frydman, Basil Iwanyk, Tom Schulman

Written by: Dough Richardson and Tom Schulman

Cast: Gene Hackman, Ray Romano, Marcia Gay Harden, Maura Tierney, Christine Baranski, Rip Torn, Fred Savage


The day before I saw Welcome to Mooseport, I noticed an interview with Romano on the Coming Soon website (http://www.comingsoon.net). It was your typical fluff piece designed to hype a film and create online buzz, but one thing Romano said stuck with me up until I finally saw the film: “I had also done a film before this one. I did 'Eulogy,' which was a dark comedy. So I kind of got my feet wet there. I screwed up on that one. Screwed up a little less on this one.” It’s probably not the most heartening thing you could hear from the lead actor in the film.

It seems that many films released in the first quarter or early days of the new year are movies that even Hollywood is not particularly proud of. These are movies not expected to win awards or make too much money, or even movies with a low marketing budget. Welcome To Mooseport is one of those films. I think the idea and sentiment behind Mooseport is to bring us back to a time “in the old days” when politics and election campaigns weren’t so dirty, and to make fun of how cutthroat our electoral process and political world has become—even though from my history lessons I can’t really remember a time when politics was not vicious and dirty.

In Mooseport, former two-term U.S. President, Monroe “Eagle” Cole (Hackman) freshly out of office, has decided to take up residence in his old summer home in the town of Mooseport after his wife (Baranski) seized most of his money and property in their divorce settlement. Cole looks to be done with politics and now more focused on having his aides Grace (Harden) and Bullard (Savage) arrange his book tours, speaking engagements, and the construction of a Presidential library that could nearly equal the size of John Travolta’s ego.

But there’s trouble in Mooseport folks. The town mayor passed away just before election time when he was going to run unopposed. At his welcoming party, the town council asked Cole to consider running for mayor. After some coaxing by the town vet, Sally (Tierney), whom Cole earlier blocked from landing at the airport with a sick animal because the President gets to land first, Cole gave the “Eagle’s Word” and ultimately decided to take the mayoral plunge. Unbeknownst to Cole, the local town handy man, “Handy” Harrison (Romano) already put in a bid to run for mayor in order to “do the town a favor.” Handy was ready to back out at the President’s advice—that is until Cole makes a dinner date with Sally the vet, Handy’s girlfriend, and so the big, dirty, mayoral race is on. Handy is a bit of a bungler and is very scared of or at least ignorant of commitment with his longtime squeeze. Of course, as the rule in these movies goes, the girl gets tired of waiting and decides to play the field elsewhere to wake up the real true love or make him jealous.

One distinctive thing I can say about this film is that I’ve yet to see a more run-of-the-mill, clichéd, cut-and-paste, stock character-laden movie in quite some time. Director Donald Petrie doesn’t really stretch much from his other work, most recently Miss Congeniality and How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days (though both were commercial successes). The plot and acting in this movie is more suitable for a television sitcom than a film, characterized by Romano trying to conduct his “Everybody Loves Raymond” character on film, as well as other sitcom alums such as Fred Savage (“The Wonder Years”) and Maura Tierney (underdog sitcom “News Radio”).

Mooseport’s comedic material falls flat, most of which comes from Romano’s clumsiness, which often seems very forced. Also, the quirky townsfolk haven’t gotten any funnier since the last quirky townsfolk movie, and President Cole and his aides and bodyguards spare no expense to make sure Cole’s sphincter is thoroughly kissed. As soon as you see that there is indeed a token African-American female character (I’m serious, I didn’t see another black character with a speaking line at all) in this film who constantly repeats “Mmm-hmm!” one can’t help but groan. In the end, when Romano said he “screwed up” with this film, unlike his sitcom or stand-up routine, he really wasn’t joking.

—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

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Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

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