Welcome to Mooseport. The sleepy Maine community has all the accoutrements of idyllic small town life: a little park and gazebo, quaint architecture, a moose that wanders through the streets, and lots of friendly townsfolk, including the proprietor of the local hardware store, Handy Harrison and his veterinarian girlfriend Sally. Mooseport also just happens to be the vacation home for the leader of the free world: Monroe "Eagle" Cole, the President of the United States. Following two successful terms, the wildly popular President is ready to retire to his "Mooseport White House," publish his memoirs and embark on a series of lucrative speaking engagements. But Eagle's retirement is delayed when the folks of Mooseport convince the former President to run for Mayor. At the same time, he sparks to Sally--unaware that she is Handy's girlfriend. So, when a jealous Handy announces HIS candidacy for mayor, Eagle is dumbfounded. Handy, in turn, sees himself in a race for Mayor and boyfriend. As the campaign kicks into high gear, things get even wilder in this once quiet town.
Donald Petrie's film, from a screenplay by Tom Schulman and a story by Doug Richardson, is a terminally mild attempt to revive the populist political comedy as pioneered by Frank Capra in the 1930's. A far-fetched plotline finds a former President of the United States (Gene Hackman) running for mayor of a small New England town against beloved local son and all-purpose handyman Ray Romano. They're also competing for the affections of the local veterinarian, played by Maura Tierney. The picture is oversupplied with excellent actors — also in the cast are Rip Torn as Cole's chief political advisor and Marcia Gay Harden as Cole's dedicated executive secretary — but undersupplied with wit and dramatic interest. The immensely likable Mr. Romano (star of television's "Everybody Loves Raymond") and the charmingly pouty Ms. Tierney (a regular on "E. R.") make a lovely sitcom couple, and "Mooseport" could easily serve as a pilot for a new series, should they ever decide to abandon their current sinecures. Mr. Hackman fills the role of special guest star, floating above and apart from the rest of the cast, descending occasionally for a verbal wrestling bout or a bit of broad slapstick. — Dave Kehr
2004-02-20 | Dave Kehr | Read the New York Times Review of Welcome to Mooseport