directed by Michael Moore opens Oct. 18 at Egyptian
LIKE ANN COULTER, Michael Moore writes No. 1 best sellers for an audience hungry to have its angry self-righteousness validated by a bellowing satirist. He has more respect for reality than Coulter, and he's a talented polemicist, while Coulter is a thin string of spittle with no English skills. But Moore is the world's greatest documentarian who doesn't want to document the world. He just wants to razz it from beneath the pope's miter of his Beaver Cleaver baseball cap.
Bowling for Columbine came about when Moore, whose ego exceeds his comically effective Falstaffian girth, realized that he comes from the same place that spawned Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols, Charlton Heston (the Moses of the NRA), and one of the Columbine High School murderers. The movie asks, "What is it about America, guns, and violence?"
Moore visits a bank that hands out free rifles and gets Nichols' brother to discuss the role in a democracy of guns and plutonium (something like, "the pen is mightier than the sword, but when the pen fails, you have to have a sword handy"). He brings two Columbine victims to Kmart HQ and convinces the store to quit selling the cheap bullets that their murderous classmates used. He makes eye-pleasing use of corny pro-gun propaganda and slapstick snippets of old movies.
Yet the film flops as art, and belly flops as intellectual analysis. The narrative has none of Roger & Me's Javert-like focus. Each interview is like a different movie. Moore busts the producer of Cops for fomenting violence with his show, but he lets Marilyn Manson deny any connection between violent entertainment and social violence. South Park's denizens once sang, "Blame Canada!" Moore incessantly sings, "Blame stupid white men!" When a welfare mom working at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill leaves her boy with his uncle, and the kid shoots a girl with the uncle's gun, whose fault is it? Moore ambushes Dick Clark and demands an explanation. This movie thinks all U.S. military actions are morally identical with, and causally connected to, the Columbine killings. Doesn't say how, exactly—you're just supposed to know it in your heart.
Heston, whose incipient Alzheimer's disease made him dim enough to invite Moore into his home to debate gun rights, offers a more plausible explanation for our gun problem (ethnic strife) than Moore does. Moore's blunderbuss never misses, but he only shoots fish in the barrel of his own one-sided mind.