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Welcome to Mooseport (2004)

Mooseport

This town isnt small enough for the both of them.

Directed by:

Donald Petrie

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 110 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: United States

Does life begin at 40? Ask Ray Romano, a bit of a late starter on the celebrity circuit. By the time he’d shot to small screen stardom as the title character in the surprisingly successful sit-com ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’, he’d already passed the big four-zero. Prior to that, he’d appeared in – well – not much, really. Now, aged 47, he’s finally landed his first big screen starring role (discounting his voice-over gig in the animated Ice Age) opposite Gene Hackman in the vaguely passable comedy ‘Welcome to Mooseport’.

He plays amiable village plumber Handy Harrison, a simple-minded man who inadvertently finds himself running for Mayoral election against former United States President Monroe “The Eagle” Cole (Hackman). You see, “The Eagle has landed” in the hick-packed town of Mooseport, which he plans to use as his base while arranging various book deals, car advertising gigs and talk show appearances – but the locals have got other plans for him. They want him to run for Mayor and, seeing it as a decent PR stunt, the ex-Prez agrees. The only problem is, our Handy has already put himself in the running and, when neither man wants to back down, the scene is set for a David and Goliath encounter of not-particularly-epic proportions.

Of course, just to spice things up a little, there’s a woman involved as well (isn’t there always?). She’s Sally (Maura Tierney), and she’s been dating Handy for the last six years – but when Il Presidente starts sniffing around, the electoral battle turns into less a competition to be Mayor than a competition to win the girlie.

Sally’s actually a bit annoying – she’s been going out with Handy for ages, but instead of attempting to talk her problems through with him properly, she thinks it a good idea to teach him some sort of lesson by dating another man. Handy, of course, does exactly what you’d expect and sets about whining his way back into her affections – but I couldn’t help but think that HE should teach HER a lesson by forgetting about her and going out with his other suitor, the pretty shop girl Mandy (Reagan Pasternak), instead.

The President, meanwhile, is a disappointingly underwritten character who would have been far more effective if he’d been made just that little bit more dastardly. Hackman puts his all into the role, but the problem is he’s playing a guy who’s actually fairly likable, with the result that you’re not actually all that bothered who wins the election/girl (though we’re supposed to be backing Handy all the way). Had Hackman been allowed to inject a little bit of his brilliant old Lex Luthor character into the part, it would have been just the ticket – instead, we’re left with a fairly flat race between two essentially nice, if a little flawed, blokes.

It’s not a bad comedy, and for director Donald Petrie – whose previous effort was the diabolical How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days – it represents a return to the realms of respectability. As for Romano? Well, there’s certainly room for improvement – but Hell, he’s only young!

It's Got: A moose called Bruce. Surprisingly enough.

It Needs: A bit more bite (though not from Bruce – he can keep those big ol’ teeth to himself, thankyou very much).

DVD Extras Deleted scenes, an out-take reel, the President’s failed Norwegian car commercial, and a featurette on some random other films which aren’t this one. DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Alternatives:

Bulworth, Doc Hollywood, Head of State, Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!

Summary

Not so much a political satire as a political parable, ‘Mooseport’ is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there. In other words – rent it, don’t buy it.

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