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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 Susan Granger
2 stars out of 4

Everybody loves Ray Romano on TV, but will you pay to see him on the big screen? That's the key question that will determine the success or failure of his major film debut.

In this new comedy, Romano plays "Handy" Harrison, an earnest hardware store owner who's a contender for Mayor in a small Maine town. But Handy faces a formidable rival in an arrogant former U.S. President, Monroe "Eagle" Cole (Gene Hackman), who has retired to his idyllic New England town, accompanied by a devoted personal secretary (Marcia Gay Harden) and a young PR advisor (Fred Savage of TV's "The Wonder Years"). And as Eagle's long-time campaign manager (Rip Torn) observes, the stakes go even higher when the ex-President's greedy ex-wife (Christine Baranski), dubbed "The Wicked Witch of the West Wing," endorses Handy.

The key to Ray Romano's success is his gentle, self-effacing quality, not unlike Tom Hanks, whose career also began on a sit-com. Veteran comedy director Donald Petrie ("How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days") captures the essence of this easy-going appeal and Tom Schulman's screenplay, based on a short story by Doug Richardson, doesn't force Romano to venture too far from his "Everybody Loves Raymond" comfort zone. Romano's next film, "Eulogy" with Debra Winger, Hank Azaria and Rip Torn, set for release this spring, may show a bit more versatility. But, right here, right now, Romano's living in caricature-ville. He's surrounded with simplistic, generic stereotypes and all attempts at political humor have been carved with a dull knife. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Welcome to Mooseport" is a floundering 5. It has an appealing premise that goes nowhere at a slow slog, following the pace of Bruce the Moose.

Copyright 2004 Susan Granger

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