Most political junkies were probably too swept up in the glow of Barack Obama's successful bid to become the 44th president of the United States to notice one little thing: where was Michael Moore? The outspoken filmmaker, so ubiquitous during the 2004 elections, popped up on "Larry King Live" occasionally, but was far from the Democratic candidate and I'm fairly certain he never so much as even held a rally to support the Democratic ticket. What a difference a few years make -- could Moore's influence be waning?
A valid question and one that dominated by thoughts upon finishing Slacker Uprising, easily Moore's worst film and one which plays like a 90-minute highlight reel of his 2004 "Slacker Uprising" tour, in which he barnstormed the battleground states to compel the college kids to get off the couch and vote. (To entice them, he offered a package of Ramen noodles and a clean change of underwear, a tactic that actually had a few political operatives trying to sue him for peddling influence.) There are plenty of scenes of protesters both for and against Bush, a few high-profile faces (Eddie Vedder, Viggo Mortensen, Steve Earle, Tom Morello and Joan Baez pop up) and lots of footage of Moore cutting up in press conferences and trying way too hard to put across his simple message: Get George W. Bush the hell out of the White House.
Yet the fiery rancor of four years ago feels so much further away now, as though it were transpired in a another time and place in American history. Arguably, America hasn't progressed much beyond the Swift Boat-ing and shameless pandering to the base of the Kerry/Bush face-off (pitbull with lipstick, anyone?), but Slacker Uprising feels like mindless rage, particularly in light of the eventual outcome. Moore's scorched earth assessments of the media's role in the run-up to the war in Iraq, the presidency and most everyone who isn't fairly like-minded erodes whatever goofy charm the film might have and simply makes it feel bitter.
So why release the film now, in the midst of the historic 2008 election? Partly because Moore just can't help himself and clearly needs to feel as though he's contributing in some small way to the process of democracy in America. But whereas before, he provided a boorish focal point for the many Bush detractors, he's out of step with the mood in 2008. The politics being promoted by Obama and Joe Biden are the sort that appear to discourage vicious partisan attacks, the sort that Moore thrives upon and indeed, following the massive success of Fahrenheit 9/11, built his career upon.
It's telling that this film, itself a re-worked version of Moore's Captain Mike Across America, was more or less dumped online for free download (although Moore is reportedly the first known director to try that approach) and is being offered for a pittance on DVD. Those realities would suggest that just maybe, politics are all tapped out as subject matter for Moore.
Presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1, this anamorphic widescreen transfer is a mixed bag, with certain sequences appearing relatively crisp, while others are far grainier and softer. Overall, the cumulative impact of the image is in line with what you'd expect from a documentary, but it rarely achieves anything other than passable quality.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is as middling as the image it supports; there are instances of drop-out or slight distortion (again, being a documentary means the quality of footage -- and audio -- can vary from sequence to sequence) but every cutting remark is heard with few genuine problems. Optional Spanish subtitles are also included.
The supplements are almost as disappointing as the film -- what's collected here are mostly just extended or deleted scenes. The one minute, 39 second "Noodlegate: Mike Bribes the Slackers" (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen) is a montage of Moore handing out ramen noodles and clean underwear to first-time voters. The one minute, 43 second "George W. Bueller's Day Off" (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen) details a New Mexico press conference; the four minute, 31 second "Storytime with Mike: My Pet Goat" (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen) features Moore in Seattle, reading an oversized version of the infamous children's book. The three minute, 30 second "The O'Reilly Factor for Kids" (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen) is more Seattle footage of Moore, discussing Bill O'Reilly's children's book. The four minute, 22 second "Crank Calling Pfizer: 212-573-1226" (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen) anticipates Sicko, as Moore tells a Tallahassee audience about the health care industry's fear of him; the three minute, 13 second "They Worked for George W. Bush" (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen) shows Moore appearing with three former Bush administration diplomats in Cincinnati. The four minute, 17 second "Letter From the War Zone: Will They Ever Trust Us Again?" (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen) touches on the war in Ames, Iowa; the two minute, 57 second "Canadian Elevator Music" (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen) details an Ames press conference and is one of the few genuinely funny clips here, and the two minute, 42 second "Joan Baez and Michael Moore: America the Beautiful" (presented in non-anamorphic widescreen) is self-explanatory -- although a bit cringe-inducing.
Slacker Uprising, easily director Michael Moore's worst film and one which plays like a 90-minute highlight reel of his 2004 "Slacker Uprising" tour, has been relegated to the sidelines in 2008, released almost as an afterthought. That reality would suggest that just maybe, politics are all tapped out as subject matter for Moore. Skip it.