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"Bowling for Columbine"

Directed by Michael Moore.
Written by Michael Moore.
Release Year:  2002
Review Date:  11/4/02


100 freakin’ films.  A hundred!  When the year began, I thought I would make it to the century mark only by pure luck, but my number came up early.  Man.  I still haven’t decided if this makes me a class-A loser or not, but I am pretty sure that it does.

Partially because I had really wanted to see this ever since I first saw the trailer for it, and partially because my friend Yac responds to each and every Bellview by only saying “Bell—‘Bowling for Columbine’”, I finally caught up with the flick for a matinee today.  Without a doubt, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore’s latest film was worth the wait.

An often scathing look at gun control in the United States, “Bowling for Columbine” is mostly an essay on our nation’s obsession with firearms, and how this relates to our out-of-control gun homicide rate, both before and after the tragic events at Columbine High School in 1999.  In a series of interviews with experts, civilians, celebrities and victims of some of the numerous violent tragedies of the last ten years, writer/director Moore gives us a good picture of some of the problems the United States has overcome and gives a glimpse of what to expect in the near future.

“Bowling for Columbine” is very good throughout, especially when it sticks to the topic that its title most directly covers—the ridiculous number of fatalities caused by firearms here in the United States.  Going from firearms dealers all the way to an interview with Charlton Heston, current head of the National Rifle Association, then taking us through what I think is never-before-seen footage of the two kids’ rampage through Columbine from security cameras in the high school, to interviews with some of the shooting victims from that day, the film is never boring.  Getting the perspective on what is was like to be at school one morning and suddenly being caught in a hail of gunfire from your fellow students was intriguing yet devastating, and watching a parent of one of the victims from the day try to give a speech at a rally was just sad.  Moore backs the interviews with statistics out the wazoo, and he really beats the media that covered the events from the day into the ground by compiling a montage of shots from news reports; our nation’s obsession with “If it bleeds, it leads”-style newscasts really is depressing, isn’t it?

As good as the film is, though, it just seems to sprawl on to cover almost anything crime-worthy, which from a film perspective (especially a documentary) isn’t what I was looking for.  As an example, Moore correctly riffs on our media’s obsession with profiling white suburban America’s constant fear of the black man.  I thought that this segment was very well done.  Does it belong in a documentary on gun violence?  Yes, if it talks about white suburban America’s obsession with gun violence amongst members of the black community...but instead, Moore goes for an interview with the executive producer of “Cops” to talk about why his show always seems to feature white cops chasing down black guys.  In my mind, this is like seeing the lobby shooting spree scene from “The Matrix” in a romantic comedy; maybe the action WAS pretty sweet, but what is it doing in a film where boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back?  Moore does this more than once and it makes his documentary over two hours long; he clearly has enough to do another film on crime in America, but it doesn’t belong in an argument that mostly deals with gun control.

For that matter, Moore seems to do what almost every media person does when talking about crime—there are only black people and white people.  Latinos seems to get no coverage here, odd given that they make up so much of our country’s current population.  Asians are left out altogether, which is amazing to me.  (Sure, a small part of the overall population, but...)  However, it cannot be denied—“Bowling for Columbine” is an impressive film, if anything because it will leave you with plenty to talk about when you leave the theater, and you are guaranteed to learn something by watching this film.  The film is showing pretty much everywhere now, so if you can, sneak this one in as soon as you can.

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09