Score: 2 stars ** out of 4 ****
In the 14 years since his “Fahrenheit 9/11” became the highest grossing documentary ever released, writer/director Michael Moore has grown to be ever-increasingly irrelevant. The five movies Moore has produced since that time didn’t even make close to half of the “9/11” box office take combined and the most recent (“Michael Moore in TrumpLand”) took in a paltry and an embarrassing $149,000.
Not unlike the long-in-coming follow-ups to “Trainspotting,” “Wall Street,” “Zoolander,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “The Blues Brothers,” “Tron,” and “Independence Day,” “11/9” is a pitiful attempt to hoodwink fans of the original into believing they’re getting more of the same solely because of the title. The good news for Moore fans: he tells you exactly what you’ll want to hear and he overloads the movie with no less than four sub-plots which, if produced separately, tweaked and expanded, could easily be their own stand-alone films.
Beginning with the first of the only two highlights, the extended opening title montage is the most non-partisan stretch of film Moore has ever pieced together. Comprised almost entirely of clips readily available on literally thousands of years-old YouTube videos, Moore’s introductory salvo is electrifying. Footage of celebrity and TV talking heads, news reports and footage from both the Trump and Clinton “victory” gatherings slowly switch moods and emotions over what started on 11/8/16 and ended in the early morning on 11/9/2016 should be taught in film school. If not for Moore’s calm voice-over, it would be difficult to tell if it was made by him or Dinesh D’Souza. It’s that fair and balanced.
For movie purists — documentary junkies especially — Moore’s choice to be the star of his own films has arguably robbed him of credibility, although others would say he’s made the largely dry genre more entertaining. Both sides are correct, but in Moore’s case, his movies always end up in Kabuki land, where his staged attempts to elicit faux outrage largely offsets any actual journalistic achievements.
A Flint, Michigan native, Moore’s first film — the near-perfect “Roger & Me” — was able to combine his outrage with regional pride and legitimate corporate malfeasance. His second, “Bowling for Columbine” (which won him an Oscar) put him on the map and led to the commercial smash “Fahrenheit 9/11.” It is in this film’s sole other bright spot that Moore returns to his hometown and dives headlong into the still-ongoing Flint water crisis.
The most thorough and damning of the main story threads, the switching from Lake Huron to the polluted Flint River for the city’s water supply was rooted in corporate profiteering and all indicators (including reports not in this film) point to Republican Governor Rick Snyder. Rather than sticking to the facts and staying focused, Moore becomes unwieldy and goes on to a different subject yet revisits it multiple times later on. Before doing so he attempts a citizen’s arrest of Snyder at the capitol in Lansing and sprays the lawn of the governor’s mansion with what is identified as “Flint Water.” Another embarrassing-to-watch failed optic includes President Obama (twice) touching a glass of Flint water to his lips without actually drinking anything. Even Obama fans at the gathering gasp in shocked disbelief.
Getting even further off-topic, Moore travels to West Virginia where he chats with a bellicose democratic service veteran running for public office and summing up the recent state wide teacher’s strike. There is absolutely nothing revealed here not already known, but Moore does dovetail it into the West Virginia 2016 primary election where Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in every last voting precinct yet was short-changed at the convention because of the rigged “super delegate” rules.
This is a great argument but, as usual, Moore finds a way to torpedo his forward strides by going off-topic by making a mockery of the U.S. Electoral College process without ever explaining how it actually works. It is also in this short stretch where Moore ham-handedly tosses in the highly inappropriate term “baby caskets” when describing voting boxes.
Easily the weakest and most desperate chunk of the movie finds Moore visiting Parkland, Florida, the site of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shootings in February. Meeting with many of the students who appeared on numerous news outlets in the wake of the tragedy, Moore uses this portion to revisit his far more focused “Columbine” gun-control issues without adding anything new or enlightening.
Playing out more like a profane double serving of “60 Minutes” than a cohesive two-hour-plus feature film, Moore’s beyond-tiresome, humor-free approach and finger wagging admonishment has lost its bite and advertising this as a detailed examination of Donald Trump as a person or president is as close as a film can get to false advertising and shows how desperate Moore has become to remain significant.
Michael Clark has written for over 30 local and national media outlets and is currently the only newspaper-based film critic providing original content in the Atlanta Top 10 media marketplace and he recently co-founded the Atlanta Film Critics Circle. Over the last two decades, Mr. Clark has written over 3,500 movie reviews and film related articles for the Gwinnett Daily Post and is one of the scant few conservative-minded U.S. critics. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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