Welcome to Mooseport review by Mike Long

At dinner recently, I ordered an appetizer of calamari. It came with the usual marinara sauce, but it was also accompanied by a white sauce that I couldn't identify. Was it horseradish? Mayonnaise? Well, I'm still not sure what it was, as it had no taste whatsoever. I could see it and touch it, but it left no impression on me. The film Welcome to Mooseport had a very similar effect.

Welcome to Mooseport is set in a small, tranquil New England village. The outgoing U.S. President, Monroe "Eagle" Cole (Gene Hackman) has moved to town, as his ex-wife, Charlotte (Christine Baranski) got his main house in the divorce settlement. Accompanied by his assistants, Grace (Marcia Gay Harden) and Bullard (Fred Savage), Cole plans to pursue a life of speaking engagements and book deals. This changes when the town elders approach Cole to be mayor of Mooseport, an idea he considers flattering, but beneath him. Meanwhile, local hardware store owner "Handy" Harrison (Ray Romano) is dealing with his own problems. His long-time girlfriend, Sally (Maura Tierney), giving him the cold-shoulder for not proposing after six years of dating. Things get worse when Sally accepts a dinner invitation from Cole. Handy had registered as a candidate for mayor, hoping to help the town, but when he realizes that he will be competing with Cole for Sally's affections, he decides that they should compete in an election as well. Soon, the political battle becomes an intensely personal one.

Welcome to Mooseport has to be one of the most benign movies that I've ever seen. The film isn't necessarily bad, in that it's professionally shot and contains many good actors, but it certainly isn't good. Like that innocuous white sauce, the movie simply sits there doing nothing. Given the film's story and the cast involved, one expects certain things from Welcome to Mooseport, but the film delivers very little. The race between Handy and Cole, which one would expect to get very nasty, never goes anywhere. The animosity between Cole and his ex-wife produces no on-screen fireworks. Handy's relationship with Sally is bland at best, and it's very difficult for the audience to care if they stay together. Every facet of this film comes across with a whimper instead of a bang, making the movie's 115 minute running time a true test of endurance.

The movie's biggest sin is that it isn't funny. Welcome to Mooseport is billed as a comedy, but delivers only a handful of laughs, most of these being cheap one-liners. The only true laugh in the film comes from a funny picture of Romano. Ray Romano can be very funny, but the Welcome to Mooseport script gives him nothing to work with. While Hackman is known for his dramatic work, his proven in the past, with films such as The Birdcage, that he can be funny, but he falls flat here as well. Director Donald Petrie has made some lackluster films in the past (Richie Rich, My Favorite Martian, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) To be honest, Welcome to Mooseport reminded me of a run-of-the-mill TV movie. The story is uninspired, the script is vapid, and the actors are wasted. When making your travel plans, you may want to re-think a trip to Mooseport.

Welcome to Mooseport hoofs onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film is coming to DVD in two separate releases, one widescreen and one full-frame. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. This transfer is quite good, as the image is very sharp and clear, showing basically no grain. There is some mild artifacting, which is evident mostly in minor haloes, but this isn't overly distracting. The colors are very good, and the image has a nice depth of field. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which delivers clear dialogue with no hissing or distortion. The track provides some nice stereo separation, but the surround sound effects come only during the crowd scenes or musical cues. Also, the subwoofer effects are very discrete.

The DVD contains a few extras. We start with an audio commentary from director Donald Petrie. This is an OK commentary, as Petrie maintains a nice conversational tone throughout, but listening to someone talk about a dull movie isn't very entertaining. He does a fine job of pointing out which lines were ad-libs (which seems to be about 90% of them) and has many nice things to say about his cast. The disc contains six deleted scenes, which can be viewed with or without commentary from Petrie. These scenes comprise eight minutes and there is a "Play All" feature. These scenes aren't very impressive and are mostly throw-aways. The 2 1/2 minute "Outtake Reel" is much better and contains more laughs than the movie itself. Finally, we have a 77-second faux TV commercial featuring Gene Hackman which was cut from the film. This can be viewed with either English or Norwegian audio.

3 out of 10 Jackasses

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