Michael Moore's new documentary opens with a title card explaining that we're in Tallahassee, Florida the night before the 2004 election and immediately I thought: Uh, yeah -- I think I recall how this one turned out. Chronicling Moore's 2004 Slacker Uprising Tour -- a get-out-the-vote series of speaking engagements in 20 'Battleground' States -- Captain Mike Across America is easily Moore's weakest film, a self-congratulatory mess that has nothing to say about the American political process and tells you everything you need to know about the numbing cult of personality that's sprung up around Moore. It's not so bad that there's a cult of personality around Moore -- as I've said of Moore before, some Americans are so desperate for someone to speak truth to power that they'll settle for someone saying anything to it. What's bad is that Moore seems to be buying into his own myth, now, and here that seems both narcissistic and futile.
Moore wants to keep old grudges alive -- anger about the 'Swift Boat' ads that ran against Kerry, anger about the decision to go to war in Iraq, anger about the 2000 election Supreme Court decision that ended Al Gore's presidential ambitions. It's like watching a demented cheerleader scream their lungs out over a game that was lost years ago -- and was rigged in the first place. And yes, I just compared the American electoral process to a rigged game.
Because it is: You could make a hell of a documentary about what's wrong with American electoral politics from both sides of the aisle -- 30 minutes on how campaign finance and TV advertising makes candidates slaves to specialized interests, 30 minutes on how voter registration in its current form deliberately disenfranchises select groups based on color and class, 30 minutes on how aggressive, computer-aided redistricting is allowing parties in power to re-draw wide swaths of the political landscape as permanent fiefdoms. And the Michael Moore who was more interested in doing well than looking good might have made that film. What we get in Captain Mike Across America is 97 minutes of Michael Moore receiving standing ovations and looking like a fabulous human being -- pensive at the site of the Penn State shootings, reluctantly taking the family-heirloom Bronze Star a young man wants him to have for fighting the good fight, getting kicked off a San Diego campus but then filling a venue ten times the size.