Michael Moore is the highest grossing documentary filmmaker of all time. So why isn’t his latest movie showing up in movie theaters? Because it’s not really a movie. Moore has claimed that he’s making Slacker Uprising available for free online as a gift to his supportive fans, but the truth is that it’s not even really a film. There is no market for the footage contained in his movie, it’s little more than a collection of rally videos. It’s like watching someone’s vacation slides, assuming the person in question’s idea of a vacation is attending Democratic political rallies. Personally, I prefer a nice beach and a Mai Tai.
In 2004 Michael Moore embarked on a 62 city tour of America, in an effort to get young people out and voting. Along the way he met resistance from Republicans, attempting to censor his right to free speech, but mostly he met a lot of cheering from already converted crowds. There’s little attempt to tell a story here. Slacker Uprising simply shows snippets of Michael Moore on stage as he shows up in convention halls and on college campuses to give pre-prepared speeches and show off celebrity guests in an effort to rally the young people of the Democratic base.
We don’t see Moore behind the scenes as he works his way across the country. We see little of the battle in places where he’s opposed, except for brief newsreel footage of laudably principled students turning down massive bribes from the Republican party. Occasionally, some right-wing extremists show up to spoil a rally. Moore makes a pithy comment, claims he happily invites all Republicans to come to his speeches, while in the background the crazed, frothing, right-wingers are hastily ushered out by security. Those freak of the weak footnotes are rare exceptions in the film’s extensive collection of footage. Mostly, what we’re watching is Michael Moore wander across the United States being cheered.
The enthusiasm of his anti-Bush crowd is of course, somewhat tempered by the knowledge that Moore and the Democrats failed. At the outset of Slacker Uprising, there’s a brief attempt to blame that failure to get one of the most unpopular presidents in history out of office on the Republican party’s dirty-tricks tactics, particularly their deplorable Swift Boat campaign against war hero John Kerry. Maybe that is to blame, maybe Americans really are that stupid. I guess we’ll find out this November, when McCain finishes launching the 2008 version of the Swift Boat maneuver. Did you hear Barack Obama is a rich, elitist, secret Muslim?
As the film ends in defeat, Moore bookends it with simple white text on a black background, declaring that even though Kerry wasn’t elected he, Michael Moore accomplished everything he set out to. He cites the record numbers of young people who turned out to vote for Kerry as evidence of his personal success. I guess that makes his tour a winner, but it also makes him a liar for wandering across the country telling young people their votes could make a difference. If there’s a lesson anywhere in the film it’s that they couldn’t, and they didn’t.
It’s hard to imagine any real reason to watch Slacker Uprising, unless you were one of the deluded youths there cheering for Moore on your way to failing to accomplish anything. That’s not to say it’s wholly without entertainment value. Moore’s speeches are occasionally funny, and some of his celebrity guests are, in their own politically fervent way entertaining. Most of them though, are the usual bunch of politics whoring celebs like Eddie Vedder. Notable exceptions include Viggo Mortensen, who shows up to give an impassioned and intelligent speech, which probably no one listened to.
Slacker Uprising just has nothing going on. It’s hard to get mad at Moore, when we know he’s capable of so much more. I doubt he really put any effort into making this one. He doesn’t even bother with much of a voice over. Right now, with the American economy crumbling around us and the country seemingly on the ropes, I can’t imagine a more depressing, wasteful way to spend an afternoon than by watching the most half-assed documentary of the year, Slacker Uprising. Next time you take your cameras on vacation Michael, take them somewhere good.
Slacker Uprising is available on DVD. I have no idea why you’d buy it, since it’s available online for free. In fact, Moore hasn’t just made it available online, he’s encouraging people to download it, save it, burn it, and share it. He doesn’t care what you do with it, he’s given the world permission to take the film and toss it around willy nilly. You can’t beat free, and for that I’m giving this thing 3 stars, even though it’s just the movie and they’re really not putting any effort into releasing it.
So, save your money and download it from his official site right here.