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Welcome to Mooseport

Starring Gene Hackman and Ray Romano
Screenplay by Tom Schulman
Story by Doug Richardson
Directed by Donald Petrie

IN SHORT: A very average adult dateflick. [Rated PG-13 for Some Brief Sexual Content and Nudity. 75 minutes.]

Director Donald Petrie is, of course, the grandson of legendary TV writer/producer Rob Petrie (of the Alan Brady Show) . . . which is probably a line he's tired of hearing. It's a joke much funnier than almost anything in the comedy Welcome to Mooseport, which sets up the premise of a retired president settling in a rustic Maine town, basically to ensure that his ex-wife doesn't get her greedy hands on the house he owns there. Monroe "Eagle" Cole (Gene Hackman) is the Prez. Charlotte Cole (Christine Baranski) is the ex who lives to make his life miserable and boy is the razor sharp Baranski underused amidst a whole batch of underutilized and/or misdirected subplots and characters.

Way off screen is the death of the town's mayor. Onscreen is a gathering of politicos, all from the local political party eager to welcome the former First Man to town, who think it would be a great idea if The Eagle were to pant his claws in the Town Hall. What these old geezers don't know is that another politico old geezer has already asked the well-liked town plumber Harold "Handy" Harrison (Ray Romano) to run and he's filled out all the paperwork. And, of course, he knows his place. How he winds up fighting tooth and nail for the job ... apologies for the metaphor ... involves long time (six years) girlfriend Sally Mannis (Maura Tierney) and the aforementioned presidential ex.

Handy's reticence is way underdeveloped as is the attempt to build romantic conflict for him with the attentions of an eager, younger, waiting in the wings local blonde (Reagan Pasternak). Eagle's own potential love life comes in the form of a waiting in the wings executive assistant, Grace Sutherland (Marcia Gay Harden), though you can see that coming a mile away. Rounding out the supporting cast are Fred Savage as a young PR flack named Bullard; the ever popular Rip Torn as campaign manager Bert Langdon; and hordes of media and press doing what hordes of media and press do, especially when the prez takes Sally to dinner.

There are a whole lot of ideas fighting for attention in the Welcome to Mooseport script. It has all the feel of one of those projects rushed into production long before it was ready to go. That may have something to do scheduling conflicts involving gainfully employed teevee stars Romano and Tierney in headlining spots. It may be that this script doesn't exploit Romano's greatest strength, which is to let his supporting characters build the comedic foundation and then deliver the punch line. It may be something else far beyond our meager comprehensive powers. All we know is that there isn't enough good gag material in the film to allow us to start dropping hints without spoiling the film. We could write that both men enjoy a good game of golf and, well, it doesn't take much to figure out what that could be about, right?

Think a bit. It isn't a hard question.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Welcome to Mooseport, he would have paid . . .



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