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Everybody loves Gene
by Asa Butcher
Issue 9
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Welcome To Mooseport
Donald Petrie
I had never heard of Welcome to Mooseport, but, as a fan of Ray Romano in the TV series Everybody Loves Raymond and the voice of Manfred in Ice Age, I felt obliged to watch him in this feature film along side the great Gene Hackman. The DVD cover featured both of these actors and the tagline: This town isn’t small enough for the both of them. I had a feeling what to expect.

The story begins when the divorced former President Monroe ‘Eagle’ Cole (Gene Hackman) moves Mooseport, a small town in Maine. The local council invite him to become their next mayor and he accepts, but Handy Harrison (Ray Romano), an unpretentious, honest local citizen, had already accepted. Handy backs out to avoid any embarrassment, but he changes his mind when Sally, his girlfriend (Maura Tierney), is asked out by Monroe. The campaign soon becomes a war.

Well, that is what the synopsis reckoned, but it was certainly a one-sided war. Handy never really shows his teeth, remaining consistently nice and honest, which leaves Monroe looking even more egotistical and power hungry. The character of Handy is Ray Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond, even down to the clothes he wears and the jokes he makes, but he is still thoroughly likeable.

I guess that was part of the problem, I kept expecting both characters to show their teeth and enter into the mean-spirited political battle, but it never happens. Once I accepted that Handy was never going to give in to Eagle’s underhand tactics you enjoy the movie more. The best moment is when they decide to play a round of golf to decide who gets to date Sally and the ex-president is hit with a stinging revelation about his golfing life.

The film was never going to win any awards, but it wasn’t the worst way to spend a couple of hours on a Friday night. Gene Hackman is his usual fantastic self, as he tries to come to terms with the fact he is no longer the most powerful man in the world and his ex-wife is taking half of everything, including his book deal and speech-making money. A fun sub-sub-plot is his Presidential Library that slowly diminishes in size as the money slowly runs out.

The remainder of the main characters do enough to keep the film moving, especially the town council members who are as eccentric as you would come to expect in a small town. My only problem was with NewsRadio and E.R.’s Maura Tierney who never smiles or looks as though she is having any fun, and she seems to be the same in whatever she stars,

In films such as these, it is always the minor characters that get the most laughs are the most enjoyable. Marcia Gay Harden, an actress who you can never remember where you have seen her before, is loveable as Monroe’s assistant, Fred Savage from The Wonder Years has suddenly become a man and the cracking Rip Torn steals every scene he appears in.

Welcome to Mooseport has its moments and isn’t too political to bore any popcorn-munchers, or as Hackman’s character regularly says, “You have the Eagle’s word!”

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