movies come along with ideas so deep that you have to chew
them over, savoring them and really pondering their flavor.
At other times, you just want something crunchy, and that's
why we have popcorn movies. You munch away, and maybe the
taste stays with you a little longer than you'd like, but
it was fun at the time.
you get something a little to the left on the food chain,
such as Welcome To Mooseport. It's not a terrible movie,
but it has no crunch. Despite a decent concept, director Donald
Petrie delivers no bite. Instead, it's pudding: a little sweet,
sliding down easily, but aw, heck, did you really need it
when star Ray Romano's own sitcom delivers more punch in 27
minutes than this thing does in over 90?
that shouldn't come as a surprise. Petrie has become a journeyman
at inoffensive comedies, starting with Grumpy Old Men
and rolling right into this from How To Lose A Guy In Ten
Days. Everybody does love Raymond, but not because
he's a particularly good actor, nor does he make an effort
to stretch. (By everybody, I speak of the general public,
not necessarily those of refined tastes that find themselves
here.) Despite actually having good timing, too, when it comes
to film comedies, Maura Tierney usually shows up as a placeholder.
Not even Gene Hackman co-starring should guarantee quality;
he has reached the stage in his career where sometimes a respected
actor takes a role in order to work on his golf game.
plays the awkwardly named Monroe Eagle Cole (awkward because
"Eagle" doesn't seem to be a nickname, though it makes for
handy catchphrases), the most beloved president in U.S. history.
More popular than Clinton, Cole also has the distinction of
being the only president sued for divorce while in the White
House. Behind the scenes he seems to be something of an ass,
rather self-centered and more concerned over the ostentation
of his legacy than its quality. As a character bit, it's only
the first story element to inexplicably turn around on a dime
so that we can have a Hallmark ending.
into his summer home in Mooseport, Maine, Cole is drafted
by the town council to replace the recently-deceased Mayor.
Though he has plans for a speaking tour and means to earn
and hide a lot of money from his ex-wife (Christine Baranski),
Cole finds himself smitten by local veterinarian Sally Mannis
(Tierney) and agrees to run just to impress her. The catch?
A second contingent from the registrar's office drafted hardware
store owner Handy Harrison (Romano) to run, too, and the commitment-phobic
Harrison has been dating Mannis for six years.
personal and public, Welcome To Mooseport could have
been many things. From the moment the Handy-Sally relationship
gets established, though, it's easy to see where it's going
(and it does go there). The film dances around satirizing the
political game, but keeps shying away from saying anything really
important. Even when Cole's campaign manager (Rip Torn) shows
up and starts plotting elaborate completely unnecessary million-dollar
strategies, the script just winks and asks if you want whipped
cream on that, honey. Thank heavens for Torn, though, because
no man alive can growl "son of a bitch" with better comic delivery.
moments threaten to make the movie better. In particular,
a third act confrontation between Cole's aide (Marcia Gay
Hardin) and Sally has some sparkle to it. As an unctuous assistant,
Fred Savage continues carving out a decent career as a character
actor. Baranski plays the embittered ex-wife broadly, but
at least it puts some jolt into her scenes, even though everything
actually explaining what the heck she's doing in Mooseport
seems to have been left on the cutting room floor.
kind of sloppy continuity shows up in a couple of places.
One political "issue" during a debate shows up in a news crawl,
as if, again, there was something meatier to this film that
somebody blindly hacked away. The two faces of Cole, arrogant
ass and decent man, only come together because Hackman makes
it believable out of his own talent, not the script.
seems like Romano gets short shrift here, it's because there's
nothing much to say. He does his usual stammering schtick,
and when required, manfully holds back tears. If you think
he's funny on television, you might be amused here.
truth, if not for the presence of Romano and Hackman, Welcome
To Mooseport could just as easily been made for the ABC
Family Channel, and nobody would have noticed. Maybe when
a comedy fails so badly in its potential, it should just wind
up on cable.