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Bowing For Columbine /

Rated: R
Starring: Michael Moore, Marilyn Manson, George W. Bush, Dick Clark, Charlton Heston
Directed by: Michael Moore
Produced by: Michael Moore, Kathleen Glynn, Jim Czarnecki, Michael Donovan, Charles Bishop
Written by: Michael Moore

Distributor: United Artists

 

(Note: I originally wrote my review of Bowling for Columbine in November of 2002, right after the film was released. After rereading that review, Iíve decided to rewrite it. The following revised review was written after a second viewing of the film in July of 2003:)

      I donít quite understand Michael Moore. In real life, he comes across as an ignorant, ego-inflated goofball, who is piggy and blatant. In his movies, though, heís a witty and often ingenious entertainer. When we watch Bowling for Columbine, we think itís much more intellectual than it really is, because of how entertaining it is. I was even amused by it, and I hate Moore, and think that his idiotic and rebellious view-points are stupid and ineffective. The problem with this film, though, is that it never tries to accomplish anything. For the whole running length, all Moore does is ponder the roots of gun control, mindlessly digging himself into a bottomless pit. Iím very conservative, and right now, I think guns are the least of our worries. But, Iím open to peopleís thoughts and ideas on the topic. Bowling for Columbine, however, relies on personal attacks and irrelevant information to support its opinion. This is not a documentary, even though itís labeled as one. A more appropriate title for this entertaining and definitely watchable, though, at times aggravating, flick would be: Michael Mooreís Rambling Thoughts on Subtle Issues.

     But Bowling for Columbine does make a statement, and Moore is undoubtedly proud of his work. If he had proposed some relevant debates during the film on why gun-control would better our society, it wouldíve been a much better, and more stable, work. This film doesnít get below our skin; it never touches our emotions. Moore almost appears as though heís the antagonist of Bowling for Columbine, going after targets like the proud Charlton Heston and accomplished Dick Clark. He tries to make these two men seem like they were in some way responsible for innocent deaths, caused by guns, but doesnít succeed. Another fault of the film is that it doesnít show the many ways that guns help the world. In most cases, they save more lives than they ruin. Moore seems to think that we will somehow be able to completely exterminate them from the earth one day. If no one in the world had a gun, and no one had the ability to make one, weíd live in one hell of a place. But, there will always be a black-market, folks. If we were to take guns from everyoneís hands, it would hurt more than it would help. I can clearly see Mooreís viewpoint, but he expresses it in such a ruckus way, he never made me want to agree with it. Bowling for Columbine didnít introduce any information, that I wasnít aware of already. Moore created something, at least, and I commend him for that. Itís not coherent enough to reach us, though. This film is half-way there, but sadly, fifty percent isnít enough.

     Moore did make me laugh, though. Heís so obnoxiously and provocatively funny in Bowling for Columbine, even those who donít agree with him (like me), will have smirks on their faces when watching it. When he is onto something, heís actually very good. For example: when heís trying to discover why Canada doesnít have nearly as many deaths as we do, he tests how safe the citizens feel. He goes up to the front doors of every single home in an Ontarian neighborhood and tries to open them. Hardly any are locked. Of course, this couldíve been a set up, or couldíve been warped on the editing room floor, but itís definitely effective. Scenes like this one do provoke thought. With much wretched material, though, conversation between audience members, after viewing the movie, will be bleak and dull (just like the entire flick, itself). But, thatís not to say that Bowling for Columbine isnít entertaining. Itís got spunk, and nobody can strip that from Moore. Even though my hatred for him constantly built, as each minute of the movie passed, I had a good time watching it. Itís definitely worth a view in theatres, but revisiting it just wonít be as pleasing, simply because youíve had time to think about its rather shallow thoughts about the issues it explores.

     Pacing is key in Bowling for Columbine. From a filmmakersí point of view, itís a piece, sent from the heavens. The way itís assembled is crucial to the sanctity of the minimal success that it showcases. As a producer, Moore is a genius, but as a person, heís far from it. On film, heís very charismatic and likeable, but unprepared to discuss a certain topic in reality, he comes across as an idiot. Even he, himself, thought that his Oscar speech (after winning Best Documentary), was terrible. His excuse was that he didnít know what to say, because he didnít think heíd win. During it, he relied on personal attacks on the President, and such. When delivering the speech, even his followers thought that what he was saying was ridiculous. His charm always comes from his talent at satirically picking fun at people (most of which have never been seen in the public eye).

     His unabashedly godawful personal attacks on Charlton Heston, during the finale of Bowling for Columbine, are the low-point of the entire movie. They ruin the picture, and showcase the fact that when Moore is unprepared (or overly prepared), or just out of jokesóheís just terrible to listen to. When viewing his rather harsh conversation with Heston, I felt worthless. I had enjoyed Bowling for Columbine up until then; itís a shame that the ending to such an inventive film had to be so shockingly rotten. Despite my disagreeing with Moore on almost every topic that surrounds society, I hardly ever want to kill him. This finale was so bad that, for his own sake, I wanted to put a bullet to his head. If he had used something to occupy the last fifteen minutes of his film, I wouldíve hailed Bowling for Columbine, just like the liberal critics that I normally abhor, did. His brutal battering of Heston (who had just been diagnosed with Alzheimers before their conversation) is, however, too morally obnoxious to be considered as respectable as the rest of his film (even though that material isnít extremely worthwhile, ití1s just a sometimes pleasant diversion). So, out of fairness, Iím giving it two and a half bucketsóa very mild recommendation. 

     With a few minor alterations Bowling for Columbine couldíve been made into one of the best movies of the year (and wouldíve succeeded in impacting many conservatives, like me). As it stands, though, itís just another piece of controversial, but forgettable trash. It will definitely hand Moore the opportunity to make another movie, howeveróseeing how much publicity itís been getting. Walking into that one, I will be undergoing the most conflicting of feelings Iíve ever in my life. As much as I want to kill Moore, I will be awaiting his next work, with much anticipation. Maybe I just want another opportunity to pummel him, maybe heís hooked me in.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews

 


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