Welcome to Mooseport - movie review (February 19, 2004)
Monroe Cole (Gene Hackman) is the most popular president since John Kennedy, and upon finishing up his second term, he decides to move to Mooseport, partly because it's the location of his vacation home and partly because he lost his more expensive home in the divorce from bitter ex-wife Charlotte (Christine Baranski). He is attended to by dedicated personal secretary Grace (Marcia Gay Harden) and bumbling public relations officer Bullard (Fred Savage). Cole is persuaded to run for the mayor of Mooseport by locals but the low-key, automatic win he expected becomes a hotly-contested, nationally-followed contest when it turns out that he will be opposed by the well-liked owner of the local hardware store, plumber Handy Harrison (Ray Romano), who had also been persuaded by others to run prior to Cole's arrival. Things turn even more complicated when Cole unwittingly pursues Handy's long-time girlfriend and town veterinarian, Sally (Maura Tierney).
When I first saw the trailer for this film, it seemed a bit quirky but had definite possibilities. Since the cast included a number of actors that I like, it was a movie that I was willing to give a chance. The film is enjoyable, but uneven, mixing some really funny scenes and good acting with some definitely predictable moments and stilted lines.
It was interesting to watch the interaction between a number of actors primarily known for their television careers with actors who are primarily known for their film careers, and there's no evident distinction between the two. For the most part, the television-based actors did a good job on the big screen, though in roles that the audience is very familiar with. One scene I particularly enjoyed was between Harden and Tierney, as the two play a sort of "miniature golf" after having had a few Irish coffees.
Gene Hackman was my favorite to watch in this film. He is normally known for portraying very serious, very gruff characters, so it was nice to see him do a good job in a much lighter role, lighter even than his character in "The Royal Tenenbaums". Ray Romano is fine as Handy, though the character seems fairly reminiscent of his title character in TV's "Everybody Loves Raymond", based on what I know of the show. Similarly, Christine Baranski's character mirrors in temperament her character Maryann from "Cybill", and Maura Tierney's character could easily be Abby from "E.R." on a good day.
A conditional recommend. If there's nothing else you want to see, and you want a light-hearted, relatively funny film, this is a good choice. If there's something else you're anxious to see, "Mooseport" would probably make a great rental.
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