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Welcome to Mooseport
2004 - PG-13 - 115 Mins.
Director: Donald Petrie
Producer: Marc Frydman, Tom Schulman
Written By: Tom Schulman
Starring: Ray Romano, Gene Hackman, Maura Tierney, Marcia Gay Harden, Fred Savage
Review by: Joe Rickey

The tittle of the film taken literally.
After losing his reelection bid, the former President of the United States returns to his hometown to recover from the devastating loss. It is not long before his attention is brought to the fact the next mayoral election is nearing and the town needs a good candidate. He decides to run, figuring that he will be able to run unopposed and keep himself active in politics. It seems though that the owner of the hardware store is going to run against him as a way of spiting him for hitting on his wife. A war of words erupts as the two face-off in a hard-fought battle for votes and the position as Mayor of Mooseport, Maine.

A hardened screen veteran, Gene Hackman has had a long, varied, and most of all, successful career. He started out making a name for himself in such films as The French Connection and solidifying his status in the film Unforgiven, for which he won an Academy Award. It hasn’t been very often, but Hackman has even ventured into the realm of comedy with such films as The Royal Tenenbaums and the underrated Heartbreakers, in which he gave an absolutely hilarious performance as an old tobacco tycoon. Would his performance in Welcome to Mooseport be as strong and memorable as that particular performance?

Welcome to Mooseport is not a particularly noteworthy film in any regard. That is not to say that it is terrible, because it isn’t. It just is kind of bland. The story had the potential to be incredibly entertaining but director Donald Petrie and screenwriter Tom Schulman decide to play it safe in nearly every way possible. The go for jokes having to do with physical comedy such as a golf ball striking someone in the forehead. While these sorts of jokes work for a limited amount of time and there certainly are a few laughs to be had in the film, they aren’t enough to sustain a two-hour motion picture. It is such a disappointment that the film wasn’t brave enough to delve into the sort of sometimes scathing political satire popularized by films such as Wag the Dog. The film also makes the misstep of starting the formation of a romantic subplot that, despite essentially becoming the focal point of the film at one point, never feels more than half-formed at any moment during the film.

In his first live action lead role in a motion picture, Ray Romano basically is playing the sort of everyman that he has been playing on his television show (Everybody Loves Raymond) for years now. He is effective in the film but it surely didn’t take much of transformation for him to accomplish what is asked of him. Gene Hackman fares better as the disgraced president. His gruff demeanor fits the character to a T. It is very easy to buy him as the President of the United States turned mayoral candidate.

Overall, those going into Welcome to Mooseport expecting anything nearing Wag the Dog political satire territory will be sorely disappointed. Taken as a light and inconsequential comedy, the film can be enjoyed because of good performances.

Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

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