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The Second Civil War
1997 - R - Mins.
Director: Joe Dante, Mac Ahlberg
Producer: Guy Reidel, Barry Levinson
Starring: Beau Bridges, Joanna Cassidy, James Coburn, Kevin Dunn, Phil Hartman
Review by: John Ulmer
   
Political satires are interesting films, and they can sometimes be especially good. "Wag the Dog," with Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman, is one of the best political satires in decades, and "The Second Civil War," though not nearly as smart as the former, is pretty darn funny in its own right, and -- if you can find it on TV or home video -- you'll probably find yourself smiling at it.

I hadn't expected too much sitting down to watch "The Second Civil War." I had never heard of it before, and my TV guide didn't give it an especially favorable review. But it is a surprisingly good TV film.

"Since when was the country run by a soap opera?" asks US President Phil Hartman in the deliciously dark political satire "The Second Civil War." Star-studded and laugh-packed, the film may seem like mediocre fodder at first, but you'll soon find yourself getting caught up in the mild genius and clever wit of it all. Yes, the film is a public TV production, but that does not reflect its position as a film.

The plot: Orphans from Pakistan are being immigrated to Idaho, but the Governor of Idaho doesn't like this idea one little bit, so he closes the border of Idaho and refuses to permit any Pakistanis into his state. This causes problems, of course, and immediately news and media from around the world start to monitor the entire situation in anticipation of something dreadful to happen.

The US President, played by Phil Hartman, likes Dwight D. Eisenhower, but lacks the smarts to be President -- he covers behind the image of an all together man and quotes Eisenhower in speeches. He shifts his nationwide announcements so that they do not interfere with soap operas. His advisor reminds him that women got mad last time he did that.

Idaho threatens to separate from the United States of America, and "The Second Civil War" is essentially a satire of the political scene and the newspeople surrounding it. "Boys, it looks like Idaho is going to war," says news anchorman Denis Leary. "I smell another emmy."

Anticipating Idaho's separation from the USA, the President and his staff make a last ditch effort to save their country by placing the Pakistanis in the middle of the battle. But this only makes matters worse.

Dennis Leary ("The Ref") is funny, but other great actors include Dan Hedaya ("The Addams Family"), Beau Bridges, James Earl Jones and James Coburn, to name a few of the A-list cast members. They all play pivotal roles in the plot, and when the film gets them in lengthy word fights it is at its best.

To top it all off, the film is directed by Joe Dante, who has brought Gremlins and werewolfs to life in the past. Dante is great at making imaginations come to life -- his kiddy action film "Small Soldiers" was even fun to sit through. Like Robert Zemeckis, Dante uses film as a medium for wit and imagination. He's made some great films. Here is another one.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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