Journalist Phil Campbell wrote a book (Zioncheck for President) about his getting booted from The Stranger and subsequently running the insurgent city-council campaign of monorail fanatic Grant Cogswell way back in 2001. His opponent was incumbent Richard McIver (played by Cedric the Entertainer with affronted dignity), though other elements of the story have been embellished for the screen. In the Don Quixote role of Cogswell, Joel David Moore keeps a well-balanced lid on his character's mania and altruism. The monorail was a stupid idea (in 1962, 2001, and today), but Cogswell's despair about this city's poisonous traffic is heartfelt; he's ridiculous and admirable at the same time. As the Sancho Panza straight man, Jason Biggs is surprisingly effective—a washout in one career, uncertain about the next, with an impatient girlfriend (Lauren Ambrose) waiting at home. In a way, Seattle is the worst market for this comedy by Stephen Gyllenhaal (Jake and Maggie's dad, a TV veteran), since we all know the political outcome. But Gyllenhaal makes the monorail's lost cause such plucky fun that you're glad to buy the ticket. Then, when the movie's over, we'll get back in our cars and be stuck in traffic again. Down in Mexico City, where he's now running a bookstore, Cogswell should be having a good laugh at that.
Political newbies Biggs (left) and Moore.
Opens Fri., June 22 at Harvard Exit. Not rated. 97 minutes.