Captain Mike Across America is not as strong as most of Michael Moore’s other documentaries. It’s also not quite as funny. But that’s probably because it’s a very different film than any of Michael’s previous works. In the same way as Dave Chappelle’s Block Party is very different from every other Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine, Be Kind Rewind) film. It doesn’t even feature the signature voice over commentary that we’ve become accustomed to. Instead sentences are superimposed on the black screen. It’s hard to describe because it isn’t really like any type of film you’ve seen before. I liken as Michael Moore’s version of a concert film.
With the democratic party and John Kerry doing everything they could to sabotage the election for themselves, Moore set off on a 60 city tour (mostly colleges), making stops in the 20 battleground states, to help raise voting awareness.
This story is intercut with news footage, and performances from special guest musicians and comedians. This is where the film often goes off track, trying to be something it clearly isn’t. It’s great to show the many special guests who appeared on the tour to support the cause, but to stop the story for a musical number is to sabotage plot and story for the sake of spectacle (and mostly b-rate spectacle at that). Special guests include Eddy Vedder, Steve Earl, REM, Joan Baez, Viggo Mortensen and Rosanne Barr. Some of them are entertaining, most are not. And I could have done without one sequence where Moore is dancing off stage.
The republican party tried to charge Moore with bribery when the filmmaker decided to pass out packs of underwear and ramen noodles to the slackers who didn’t vote in the 2000 elections. The rivalry between the Republican party and Moore is the backbone of this film’s drama. Later on the tour, a republican offers a school $100,000 if they cancel Moore’s appearance. They don’t. Another speech is canceled when republication politicians made a fuss. In Utah, a group of republican students petitioned to impeach the student body president who organized the event. There were lawsuits, and much more.
Instead of the showmanship, I would have preferred to see more into the backstage adventures of Moore’s cross country trip. Moore sees more face time in Captain Mike than all of his previous films combined, but I feel we only get a glimpse or two at the guy I remember from Bowling For Columbine. For most of the film he is on stage, giving comically charged inspirational speeches to thousands of college students from across the US. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I was just hoping for more of a personal story, and that is lacking in this journey.
Captain Mike Across America is a snapshot of the political climate in America around the time of the now infamous 2004 elections. At first I was worried that the preachy speeches would be irrelevant now that the election was lost, but that is not the case. Mike Across America is Moore’s love letter to the American political system and to the constitution. To the idealistic view that the truth will lead us to a better world. To the idea that people can and will change the world.
I also highly recommend that The Weinstein Co consider re-titling the film to something more marketable. I would suggest: Michael Moore’s Slacker Uprising Tour 2004.
/Film Rating: 7 out of 10