"Proof that even the finest actors can't always salvage a limp screenplay."
A massive disappointment considering the actors involved, "Welcome to Mooseport" is a down-home Capra-wannabe feature-length sitcom episode to the nth degree; the flick is so busy trying to be quaint and charming that it never once stops to be, y'know, funny.As a massive fan of the work of Mr. Gene Hackman, I was happily optimistic about Welcome to Mooseport. It promised a trifecta of talented actresses that I quite admire (Maura Tierney, Marcia Gay Harden and Christine Baranski) while also acting as a vehicle for TV star Ray Romano, hoping to bridge the gap from situation comedy to feature-length movies. Toss in a Fred Savage here and a Rip Torn there...
Welcome to Mooseport sounded exactly like a madcap ensemble farce that I'd really enjoy.
Alas, the aimless and bloated screenplay of Tom Schulman (Dead Poets Society, 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag) was destined to collide head-on with the colorless and banal directorial stylings of Donald Petrie (My Favorite Martian, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) and the result is a movie too languid, too limp, and way too skimpy on the laughs. Manic trumps rustic any day.
Romano is a small-town handyman; Hackman is a former U.S. president. A series of plot points too silly to dwell upon lead to both men as the mayoral candidates for the sleepy mountainside town of Mooseport. There are numerous side characters, none of whom (aside from Baranski as a venomous former First Lady) manage to raise the humor quotient one iota.
The film is perfectly amiable and generally pleasant, which actually works as a detriment. It's plainly obvious that neither actor wants to play the Bad Guy here, so what we end up with is a rather wishy-washy battle of the wills. The gruff Mr. Hackman asserts his trademark charm; Romano whines and worries. The colorful side characters end the scene by making a funny face. Cut to next scene.
Petrie and Schulman seem to be shooting for some sort of modern-day Capra vibe, and while it's admirable to try and make a good-natured piece of comedy...you're gonna end up nowhere if you forget to bring the actual jokes. Mooseport's idea of quirky humor is to have a naked old man jogger and a domesticated moose populate the same Main Street. But that's all we get is 'surface quirk'. Welcome to Mooseport has no bite, no edge and no discernable drive when it comes to making with the yuks.
And when a limp little farce runs over 110 minutes, delivering perhaps three mild chuckles in the process, it's time to start wondering what's up. Welcome to Mooseport is a tough movie to actively hate (Hackman alone saves it in that respect), but it's so tame and so conventional that one wonders why they even bothered making the darn thing in the first place.For the record: Tierney, Harden and Baranski acquit themselves quite well. They (along with the rascally ol' Gene Hackman) are the only saving graces in an affair that's otherwise disposable and immediately forgettable.