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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> November 2002 >> Bowling for Columbine

Bowling for Columbine

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
5 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
November 2002
IMDB Name:
Bowling for Columbine (2002)
Michael Moore
MPAA Rating:

How far is Canada?

Michael Moore has always been a man with a political agenda running underneath his writing, films, and television shows. I happen to agree with him on many points, so that hasn't bothered me. His first film, Roger & Me, stirred lots of indignant emotions about the behavior of giant corporations. Canadian Bacon was his try at fiction filmmaking, which was pretty funny the first time. I've read and enjoyed Moore's books, and regret that I've never seen an episode of either "TV Nation" or "The Awful Truth". I have yet to see The Big One, but it's on my list.

With all of this background familiarity with Moore, I rushed right out to see Bowling for Columbine. This is Moore's attempt to get America thinking about guns. For the overwhelming majority of its run, Bowling is quite thought- provoking. Why does America have such a disproportionately high rate of gun violence? What policies could possibly appease everyone? Why does the National Rifle Association have a disturbing tendency to hold rallies in towns where gun violence has claimed the lives of innocent children? There are interviews with victims of the Columbine incident, entertainment figures like Matt Stone, himself a native of Littleton, and even Marilyn Manson, who is often cited as an inspiration for kids with guns. Manson and Stone both acquit themselves admirably. Less successful is John Nichols, brother of Oklahoma Bombing collaborator Terry Nichols.

Editor Kurt Engfehr has assembled Moore's footage in a way that alternates between laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreakingly sad. The movie contains a hilarious cartoon history of violence in the United States and surveillance footage of the Columbine massacre. It may seem sacriligeous to put these two on the same celluloid, but their juxtaposition creates an emotional roller coaster that's probably even more effective than a constant stream of depression. It's not long before the audience is totally swept up in a whirlwind of feelings that they can't resist because it moves so quickly. The great disappointment is at the end. Moore manages to get a face-to-face interview with Charlton Heston. Moore's questions are reasonable for a while, and Heston gamely tries to play along. It's when Moore pushes too far and Heston leaves the room that he really shoots himself in the foot. Moore chases Heston with a photo of a young girl gunned down by a classmate. After spending almost two hours building a reasonable position based on intelligent discussion, this reversion to bathos is sickeningly inappropriate. I still recommend the movie, but I wish Moore had reined in his emotions for that part.

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Copyright 2002-2003 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.