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Welcome To Mooseport

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Welcome To Mooseport

Starring: Gene Hackman, Ray Romano
Director: Donald Petrie
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: February 2004
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Paul Bates, Marcia Gay Harden, Wayne Robson, Jackie Richardson, Fred Savage, June Squibb, Krista Sutton, Rip Torn, Philip Williams, John Rothman

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT, directed by MISS CONGENIALITY's Donald Petrie, takes a high concept picture -- most popular president in history runs for mayor of a small town -- and has trouble in achieving liftoff. Sputtering down the runway, the movie eventually takes off thanks to a another fine performance by Gene Hackman, even though he sometimes makes it seem so easy that he appears in danger of just phoning in his part as President Monroe "Eagle" Cole.

Adding even more sparkle to the production is the good supporting cast, especially Marcia Gay Harden as Grace Sutherland, the president's long-time aide and would-be girlfriend, and Maura Tierney as Sally Mannis, a cute veterinarian who catches the president's eye. Sally is sort of taken. At least that's what Handy Harrison, a plumber and her long-time, commitment-phobic boyfriend would like to think. In the only part of the casting that never quite works, Ray Romano, from TV's "Everybody Loves Raymond," plays Handy, a Yankee twist on the southern good old boy. Romano sucks the comedic energy out of too many of his scenes. The movie works best when he isn't in the frame. And the scenes of his that do work, as in the hilarious one when Sally discusses an appropriate panty color for her date with the president, are funny in spite of him not because of him.

The plot involves a race for the mayor of the tiny town of Mooseport, Maine, a position that neither Monroe nor Handy want but which neither are willing to lose once the race is on. Rip Torn is great as Bert Langdon, Monroe's pragmatic campaign manager. When the president finds out that he is falling in the latest polls, he demands to know the sample size. Sheepishly, Burt says that they asked everyone. How's that for a small margin of error?

The movie is really PG. A geriatric male streaker runs through the set twice for the sole purpose of boosting the film's rating to a more lucrative PG-13. I do wish the studios would stop trying to manipulate the MPAA ratings so flagrantly.

The movie has its problems, including a cheap-looking, grainy appearance and a score that is obsessed with italicizing every dramatic moment in this Capraesque comedy. But, except for Romano, the cast is so naturally funny that it's a hard movie to resist. The Eagle, as he is known, is also the first president to have been divorced in office. As the "Wicked Witch of the West Wing," Christine Baranski (the reporter in CHICAGO) plays Charlotte Cole, the Eagle's money grubbing ex who shows up in Mooseport to give him as much grief as possible.

Of the many funny jokes in the movie, the best are an on-going series of gags about the president's low golf handicap. One presidential prerogative, we learn, is to cheat like crazy on the links. Hackman makes the comedy look so easy, you almost want to complain that he's cheating too, but, as you're laughing, you probably won't care in the least.

WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT runs 1:51. It is rated PG-13 for "some brief sexual comments and nudity" and would be acceptable for kids around 8 and up.

My son Jeffrey, age 14, gave the film just **. He said that the movie didn't properly showcase Hackman's considerable talents, and that Hackman's and the other characters were underdeveloped. He said that Hackman was good, but he coasted too often. He thought the story was predictable, and it didn't make us care about the romance or the election.

Copyright 2004 Steve Rhodes

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