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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Welcome to Mooseport (2004)

"I had dignity once. Does anybody remember that?"
- Monroe Cole (Gene Hackman)

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: May 25, 2004

Stars: Gene Hackman, Ray Romano, Marcia Gay Harden, Maura Tierney, Christine Baranski, Fred Savage, Rip Torn
Director: Donald Petrie

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some brief sexual comments and nudity
Run Time: 01h:50m:28s
Release Date: May 25, 2004
UPC: 024543121114
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B C+AB+ B-

DVD Review

When Ray Romano was out plugging his feature film debut in Welcome to Mooseport a few months ago, reporters often asked him whether his transition to the big screen might spell curtains for his popular TV sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. Romano cagily replied that he needed to gauge box office returns before leaving his lucrative day job, and it's a good thing the comedian hedged his bet. In the blink of an eye, Mooseport swept into theaters and swept out, and last week CBS announced Raymond will return for its ninth season.

Romano isn't the first sitcom actor to make a misguided leap to movies, and he won't be the last. The trouble is, sitcom actors tend to make sitcom movies, and savvy audiences hate to shell out nine dollars for the type of fare they can watch at home for free. Welcome to Mooseport is better than most such films, but its predictable story and dearth of smart humor keep it forever grounded in mediocrity—regardless of the type of screen on which it's viewed. And with fellow television actors Maura Tierney (er), Fred Savage (The Wonder Years, Working), and Christine Baranski (Cybill, Happy Family) populating the cast, Donald Petrie's film has trouble shaking its TV stigma.

Like the bar in another famous situation comedy, Mooseport is the type of small town where everybody knows your name. But the TV comparisons don't stop there. The rural Maine community houses plenty of eccentric residents (including an elderly streaker), lending it the feel of the quirky Alaskan borough depicted in Northern Exposure. Former president Monroe Cole (Gene Hackman) arrives at his summer home in Mooseport because his bitter estranged wife Charlotte (Baranski), whom he refers to as "the Wicked Witch of the West Wing," has wrangled away all of his other assets. Monroe hopes to relax, plan his palatial presidential library (bigger than Clinton's), and book a nationwide speaking tour (more lucrative than Clinton's). A group of local activists, however, soon approaches him, and hopes to convince him to take the place of the town's recently deceased mayor.

Monroe's advisors (Marcia Gay Harden and Savage) try to dissuade him from accepting such a Mickey Mouse position, but the president is attracted by the job's positive P.R. and the fact that his ex won't be able to steal the mayor's residence in a divorce settlement. Complications arise when Monroe learns local hardware store owner Harold "Handy" Harrison (Romano) has thrown his hat into the ring as well. The president feels campaigning for the rinky-dink office would be demeaning (and expensive), and convinces Handy to withdraw, but when Handy notices Monroe's interest in his longtime girlfriend Sally Mannis (Tierney), he decides to put up a fight—for both the mayor's job and Sally's affection. Of course, Monroe can't risk the embarrassment of dropping out of such an insignificant race, so instead mounts a massive campaign and becomes obsessed with victory at any cost. He even enlists the services of Washington insider Bert Langdon (Rip Torn) to help him bury his opponent.

Mooseport benefits from a clever premise, but struggles to sustain its promising start. An amusing scene is often followed by a flat one (or two or three), and the stereotypical characters lack the spontaneity to surprise us. Romano can never shed the image of his TV alter ego, but his sweet demeanor and bumbling ways make him a likeable everyman. Although he's out of his league acting with Hackman, their oil-and-water personalities enliven their confrontations. It's hard to dismiss the notion, however, that Hackman is slumming in Mooseport, even though his cantankerous character provides him with several showy moments, and he seems to be having a ball. Unfortunately, he's often the only one.

Baranski specializes in bitchy socialites, and stirs things up whenever she's on screen (which, sadly, isn't often enough). In contrast, the sublime Harden makes the most of her long-suffering role, underplaying to perfection while exhibiting a deft comic touch and impeccable timing. It's a dubious honor, but she easily steals the film.

Painless, innocuous, and better than the average TV movie-of-the-week, Welcome to Mooseport pleasantly passes the time, and can be enjoyed by the entire family. In this presidential election year, it's fun to see the Washington political machine invade a small town and turn it inside out, as well as witness simple town folks soften slick sophisticates and teach them a few valuable lessons. Such things rarely happen in real life, but then again, if George W. Bush loses his bid for re-election in November, can't you just picture him running for mayor of Crawford, Texas? Or Kennebunkport? With Karen Hughes as his campaign manager, Ari Fleischer as his media liaison, Dick Cheney as his chief strategist, Donald Rumsfeld as chief of police…

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Typical of most recent releases, the Mooseport transfer is vibrant and pristine, with lush colors, exceptional clarity, and a spotless source print distinguishing the presentation. At times, the movie looks as crisp and clean as Romano's sitcom in HD, yet maintains a film-like feel, thanks to director Petrie's fine visual sense and the beauty of the small-town setting.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanish, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 track offers bright, clear sound with faint surround enhancements. John Debney's music score enjoys good fidelity and depth of tone, and dialogue remains easily understandable throughout. Ambient effects could have been more pronounced, but overall the track is warm and smooth.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Cheaper By the Dozen, Stuck on You, The Girl Next Door, The Clearing, The Day After Tomorrow
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Donald Petrie
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:02m:05s

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtake Reel
  2. Fox promotional reel
Extras Review: A modest spate of extras enhance the disc, beginning with an engaging, if superficial, scene-specific audio commentary by director Donald Petrie. Although some of his comments are painfully clichéd ("Gene Hackman can read the phone book and he's great!"), Petrie offers plenty of interesting behind-the-scenes nuggets. We learn many of the film's best lines were actually ad-libs contributed by Romano, and the actor was quite generous in handing out quips to his cast mates. Petrie also divulges that filming on Mooseport transpired at the height of SARS hysteria in Ontario, Canada, putting many members of the cast and crew on edge. He also relates other trivia, such as Romano's obsessive cleanliness, and how the elderly streaker was so well-endowed some digital doctoring was required in the editing room. Fans of Mooseport will especially appreciate this track, but casual viewers will probably want to skip it.

Six deleted scenes follow, which can be viewed with optional director's commentary. The best of the bunch is a drunken female-bonding sequence between Tierney and Harden, but most are extended takes of existing scenes featuring mildly amusing ad-libs. A requisite, albeit brief, outtake reel possesses some genuinely funny moments, while a Soova car commercial with Gene Hackman (shot for the film but deleted) gives the legendary actor a chance to ham it up. Both English and Norwegian versions are included.

The Fox Flix section offers a single trailer for the upcoming thriller The Clearing, while Inside Look is not a featurette about Mooseport, but rather a promo piece for upcoming Fox projects like Garfield, The Day After Tomorrow, and Dodgeball.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

For a sitcom movie featuring quite a few sitcom actors, Welcome to Mooseport meets all the criteria. Its top-notch transfer earns the film some big screen points, but not enough to rescue it from the rental bin. In the end, Donald Petrie's political farce, while timely, winds up as predictable as many an incumbent's re-election campaign.

 


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