TIFF Report: CAPTAIN MIKE ACROSS AMERICA Review
I very seldom inject purely personal commentary when reviewing a film but considering the polarizing effect Michael Moore has upon audience I feel it is necessary to declare a few things to set context for what follows. Far from being a neo-con who objects to Moore's work as a matter of principle I am rather of fan of his previous films. At his best Moore provides insightful commentary on the world in which we live, he challenges preconceptions and forces people to rethink their own assumptions and the role they are playing within society. And even when at his worst he is a consummate showman who will, if nothing else, entertain mightily while providing the grist for important conversation. Love him or hate him he forces you to respond and that in itself is a valuable thing. Further, having spent my first five working years after college working full time with the homeless here in Toronto I am also a socially aware type with politics largely in line with Moore's own views. That said ....
Ostensibly chronicling his failed Slacker Uprising Tour - the traveling get-out-the-vote roadshow he embarked upon prior to the 2004 presidential elections with the express intent of bringing down President Bush, Captain Mike Across America is actually about nothing more than servicing Moore's own enormous ego. A ninety seven minute continuous wank job the film is a smug and self congratulating attempt at self-canonization. It is intellectually hollow, shallow as a puddle, and has nothing to say about anything of any lasting importance to anyone other than Moore himself.
In the weeks leading up to the 2004 election Moore led an extended tour visiting college campuses throughout the expected battleground states with the goal of bringing out the youth vote and mobilizing an army of youthful volunteers who could mobilize that largely silent, largely left leaning, generally non-voting population that they hoped would put John Kerry over the top. The campaign failed, obviously, but that fact hasn't stopped Moore, some three years later, from assembling footage shot on this tour into Captain Mike.
Now, successful or not, the tour could have - and SHOULD have, dammit - provided an excellent launch pad to enter discussion on any number of important issues. A study at social resistance? Could have done that. A primer on grass roots activism? Could have done that. A dissection of a badly flawed electoral system? Could have done that. An ass kicking diatribe against rampant voter apathy? Could have done that. Moore does none of these things. Absolutely none of them. Shockingly for a film supposedly chronicling a series of political rallies, Moore can't even find the time to present the on-stage content of those rallies as anything beyond a handful of brief sound bites. What he does find time for though, and lots of it, is shot after shot after shot of himself entering packed out arenas to thunderous applause, fans requesting hugs as though he were the lost fifth Beatle, a man giving him a relative's world war two Bronze Star, and every word of praise that the rock stars and celebrities who joined him on tour had to send his way - Joan Baez gives a particularly lengthy ode to Michael - while cutting out just about anything of substance any of them may have said from the stage. By my count the film opens with a solid twenty minutes - nearly a quarter of the total run time! - of this sort of hollow self promotion before making even a half hearted attempt at even raising any sort of larger issue.
You'll have to pardon me if I don't talk about any issues raised by the film, it's just that there aren't any. Moore says nothing in this film beyond the fact that there is a large faction of people out there who like him rather a lot and that he agrees with them wholeheartedly. Mike? You're better than this. And you'd better remember it before all of those adoring people forget why they cared about anything you had to say in the first place.