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Vol. LXII, No. 43
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME: George W. Bush (Josh Brolin) is shown here ready to play ball with the members of the baseball team that he owned at one point in his career.

W. Oliver Stone Chronicles Bush’s Career in Damning Biopic

Kam Williams

Oliver Stone has never been afraid of making films that are controversial and this biopic is no exception. The iconoclastic director has made presidential documentary-style dramas before (JFK and Nixon), but W. is the first about a president who is still in office.

This incendiary movie paints a most unflattering picture of George W. Bush (Josh Brolin) as a spoiled nincompoop who has been a failure at every endeavor he’s undertaken. The picture begins with his early adult years, which he frittered away as a boozing, womanizing embarrassment to his family. Next it focuses on his shortcomings as a businessman and a politician.

In the course of the film we’re shown the younger Bush’s familiar fiascos, such as his ill-fated forays into the oil and baseball businesses. The movie doesn’t really reveal any new surprises, unless you were unaware that he got a girl pregnant, was arrested for drunk driving, and was a disappointment to his father, former president George Herbert Walker Bush (James Cromwell).

The film is at its best when a born again George W. Bush cleans up his act, marries Laura (Elizabeth Banks), and decides to enter politics. When he becomes president we find him in the White House surrounded by his advisors: who include Karl Rove (Toby Jones), Vice President Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss), Dr. Condoleezza Rice (Thandie Newton), Secretary of State Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright), Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Scott Glenn), and CIA Director George Tenet (Bruce McGill).

At this point in the movie the story becomes fascinating because it takes a “fly-on-the-wall” approach that confirms the country’s worst fears about the behind-the-scenes developments that were perpetrated by members of the administration. For example, we see Rove as the scheming brains behind the throne, while Cheney is exposed as a power hungry maniac who felt that the Patriot Act wasn’t strong enough. Rice, Powell, and Tenet are portrayed as sycophants who consciously compromised their integrity by supporting the decision to go to war with Iraq while knowing that the country had no weapons of mass destruction.

Still, the worst criticism is reserved for Bush, who is portrayed as a simpleton-in-chief who was willing to hand the reigns of government over to his vice president so that he could be free to eat junk food and watch sports on TV. A damning biography which magnifies the worst traits of the president who has the lowest approval rating in history.

Very Good (3 stars). Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexual references, smoking, alcohol abuse, and disturbing war images. Running time: 131 minutes. Studio: Lions Gate Films.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

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