Published Feb 01, 2004Where have all the good comedies gone? It used to be that no matter how bad American movies got, you could always find a halfway decent comedy to watch. But over the past year there's hardly been any.
There was School of Rock, A Mighty Wind and, for some, Bad Santa, and that was about it. I pondered this question during the new Ray Romano/Gene Hackman movie, Welcome to Mooseport, because it is in many ways a perfect example of everything American movies used to do well but now bungle horribly.
Gene Hackman plays a popular, newly retired president who moves to the town of Mooseport, Maine, where he finds himself begrudgingly running for mayor. The local politicians ensure him that it is a mostly ceremonial position and that he will run unchallenged, but at the last minute a local plumber (Romano) throws his hat into the ring and suddenly a small-town election is transformed into a national David versus Goliath news story.
It's a great set-up, like something Preston Sturges or Billy Wilder might have come up with, but the filmmakers just throw away the political battle royale in favour of stale romantic comedy plotting, reducing Hackman and Romano's rivalry to a fight over a girl (a bored-looking Maura Tierney).
Like so many recent comedies, Welcome to Mooseport shows no interest in mining its own subject matter for laughs it just lazily riffs on its stars' established personas and hopes for the best. Romano acts passive and dopey, Hackman acts presidential, Christine Baranski (as the president's ex-wife) acts bitchy and Rip Torn (as the president's aide) stands around and growls a lot.
This is a comedy thoroughly devoid of both imagination and laughs, and is an utter waste of time and talent. (Fox)