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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Kerry Hayes, © 2004 Twentieth Century Fox)

photo caption:
TIME FOR A SNACK: Former U.S. President Cole (Gene Hackman, center) meets Mooseport mascot Bruce the Moose!end caption.


Local Plumber Ruins Retiring President's "Welcome to Mooseport"

Review by Kam Williams

The sleepy town of Mooseport, Maine gets a wake-up call when the outgoing President of the United States, Monroe "Eagle" Cole (Gene Hackman) decides to retire there. A popular ex-President travels with a sizable entourage of advisors, assistants, Secret Service agents, and press. Especially when he's still going through a messy divorce with a vindictive former First Lady (Christine Baranski).

Monroe's initial idea was to end his career of public service by disappearing gracefully to write his memoirs but his plan is put on hold after he is coaxed by a coterie of town elders to run, presumably unopposed,for mayor of their idyllic community. However, the move to Maine is quickly complicated when Cole steps on the toes of his own new plumber, Handy (RayRomano), by unwittingly asking the man's veterinarian girlfriend, Dr. Sally Mannis (Maura Tierney), out on a date.

When Sally accepts, because her long-time beau has never bothered to pop the question, suddenly possessive Handy responds by jealously announcing his own candidacy for mayor, too. The battle between the President and the plumber is on, both for the job and for the woman. Meanwhile, a meddling media circus ensues, which keeps the entire country well-informed of all of the above.

This is the delightful premise of Welcome to Mooseport, directed by Donald Petrie, a proven master of the romantic comedy genre. Though his last two movies, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Miss Congeniality, each pulled in over $100 million at the box office, this latest offering doesn't quite measure up to either of those relatively intriguing adventures.

Despite the presence of a stellar cast, starting with a two-time Academy Award-winner in Gene Hackman and a two-time Emmy-winner in Ray Romano, and including Marcia Gay Harden, Christine Baranski, Rip Torn and Fred Savage, this lackluster production fails to generate much in the way of tension and less in the way of merriment. The front story unfolds like an uninspired, over extended TV sitcom against an Anywhere, U.S.A. backdrop which looks more like a plastic Hollywood fabrication than what it might really mean to be from Maine.

One problem is that none of the movie was shot in New England, but rather on location in Toronto, Canada and on fake-looking sets in Hollywood. Director Petrie, unable to capture any authentic accents or regional charm, expects his audience to be satiated by an abundance of quirky, two-dimensional characters.

We've seen all these colorful, local yokels before: the hard of hearing senior citizen who shouts whenever he speaks, the sassy soul sister, the village idiot, the meddling gossip, the solicitous town tramp, the nerdy pencil-pushing bureaucrat with the squeaky voice, et cetera. These readily recognizable stereotypes could just as easily have been rolled out for a story situated in any other region of the country.

What little humor mustered up by Welcome to Mooseport follows an age old theme: the newcomer versus the working class native. The overly confident President, with plenty of money, expert advice, and star power on his side, appears destined to overmatch the awkward plumber who only has spunk and a pure heart. But that¹s before his insufferable ex-wife arrives and immediately sides with Handy.

Some scenes elicit a few chuckles, like the intense press coverage of the President's date with Sally and the mayoral debates, but the laughs don't come frequently enough for this film to rate a high recommendation.

Good (one and 1/2 stars). Rated PG-13 for brief sexual comments and nudity.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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