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W. Movie

Movie title: W. Movie (2008)
Grade: D- (1 star)
Rated: PG-13
Directors: Oliver Stone
Producers: Moritz Borman, Bill Block, Paul Hanson, Eric Kopeloff,
Starring: Josh Brolin “George W. Bush,” Stacy Keach “Earl Hudd,” Ioan Gruffudd “Tony Blair,” Ellen Burstyn “Barbara Bush,” James Cromwell “George Herbert Walker Bush,” Elizabeth Banks “Laura Bush,” Richard Dreyfuss “Dick Cheney,” Toby Jones “Karl Rove,” Thandie Newton “Condoleezza Rice,” Scott Glenn “Donald Rumsfeld,” Jeffrey Wright “Colin Powell,” Bruce McGill “George Tenet”
Genre: Drama/Comedy
Summation: From his youth until just after 9-11 in his presidency, the life of George W. Bush is portrayed.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Where one stands politically really shouldn’t matter in critiquing movies. Whether you’re a nutty (in my opinion) 9-11 conspiracy theorist, or a staunch Republican Bush-bot who believes ole’ W can do no wrong, it matters not. But if you’re going to do satire on the shortcomings of either the left or the right, make it funny! Don’t have it straddle the fence between a hammy, factually questionable documentary, and a satirical piece. But that is exactly what this film does, for which it receives a near-failing grade.

W. Movie is not funny except in a few passing places, and these are rare throughout the film. The docudrama-style presentation alone removes it from the realm of effective satire. It is easy to get the impression that you are watching a made-for-tv movie on Bush Jr.’s presidency, and it’s not a stretch to say that a number of uninformed people will mistake this for a factual representation of his presidency.

Director Oliver Stone, a far left-leaning liberal known for distorting and omitting facts (i.e. his movies JFK and Nixon), claims that he kept this one factual and largely free from bias. But that, my friends, is a joke of near epic proportions. I'm no fan of the right-wing Christian movement, but portraying our nation’s commander-and-chief as a privileged rich kid, a lazy and riotous drunk who can’t hold down a job, a complete and total moron, surrounded by a whole cabinet of morons who can’t even think up a phrase like “the axis of evil” without expending great effort is not making a movie with little bias.

The movie repeatedly flips from W’s past as a partying fraternity boy, being initiated in hardcore drink-offs, getting arrested and always depending on daddy to bail him out of trouble, to his future (near our present) as a sly-but-empty-headed, heartless, oil-obsessed politician who makes our nation a mockery on the world stage. Now parody is all fine and good. It is the shining greatness of the U.S. of A. that we can make fun of our leaders and smear them all over the edge of the envelope in expression of our views. But again, W. Movie isn’t funny.

The movie halfass-edly tries to be a parody at a few places, but ends up seeming like a serious documentary at others, and at times, even makes you want to genuinely empathize with Jr., like when it shows a recovering alcoholic Bush talking to his reverend and praying with him for the strength to be a better person. There’s no humor at all, just well-succored empathy, and then mockery, making the film inconsistent in its more-than-apparent goal to bash our 43rd president. Were it not for a few obviously comically-slanted remarks, the running impression of the film would be that this is a docudrama, not a comedy.

Laborious time is spent in scenes of discussion between cabinet members where Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are portrayed as obviously oil-crazed fiends who are as venomous as the commander-and-chief himself, wanting nothing more than to invade Iraq merely for the oil. When no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are found, they squirm in their seats to work past the blunder of going to war without so much as an apology or an admission of wrongdoing. Condi (Thandie Newton), when faced with the issue of there being no evidence of Hussein’s having WMDs is made to say: “We occupy that area now, sir, so I’m sure we’ll find them.” Yeah, a few funny moments are to be found, but not nearly enough.

Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) is portrayed as the only reserved and wise voice in the meetings discouraging war, warning against allowing 9-11 to be used to throw America off course by going against general wartime procedures for declaring war. But then Bush steps in – macho cowboy style as always – and sets the record straight that he is in charge, and unlike his father who didn’t go far enough in the Gulf War, he would—in efforts to kick the guy’s ass who messed with his daddy! Now, the chase for Saddam Hussein was personal!

If not satire, what was W. Movie really? It was a mudslinging campaign. And it’s no coincidence that it was hurriedly released just as the November elections came around. Regardless of how you feel about the Bush administration, the movie doesn’t hit the sweet spot. And as always, when attempts at humor flop, they flop big-time! So please, Mr. Stone, the next time you want to cram your left-sprinkled take on America down our throats, just tell us what it is we are being force-fed. No need to lie to us by telling us it’s something it’s not. Goodness knows, you’ll have plenty of people sympathizing with your agenda anyway.

The Saturday Night Live-level makeup job of the characters was a touch less than commendable, but just about adequate. Suffice it to say, they played the part—some more so than others at certain spots. The acting was decent. But it’s identifying the audience for this movie that is the hard part. We must ask, who would see this movie? All except the most diehard conservatives give Bush a very low approval rating, making it unlikely that many on the right would make the trip to the theatre to see a movie about him, especially considering its production with an expectedly leftwing perspective. And the left abhors W. If they dared go see this movie expecting it to be a funny take on the W they so love to hate, they are going to be downright angry and sorely disappointed.

What makes W. Movie a failure is that it fails to identify with and advance its genre in that it fails as a work of satire. It’s not funny. It’s not entertaining. It’s a waste of time. The movie ends with a perplexed and mentally burdened Bush being stumped by a simple question, bumbling before an audience at a press conference. But the real question to be perplexed by is: why am I still considering seeing this movie?

(JH)

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