Welcome to Mooseport (February 18/04)
Welcome to Mooseport is a textbook example of a film that manages to coast along on good vibes for a while, but eventually becomes tedious and irrelevant. It doesn't help that the film chugs along for almost two hours, an overlong running time that seriously undermines the positive elements that emerged at the outset.
Sitcom star Ray Romano makes his starring debut as Handy Harrison, a handyman in a small town called Mooseport. He lives there with his girlfriend of six years, Sally (Maura Tierney), who is becoming impatient with his reluctance to propose. When a popular former president named Monroe Cole (Gene Hackman) decides to move to Mooseport, the town citizens decide he'd make one heck of a mayor. Monroe accepts, not realizing that Handy has already thrown his hat into the ring - thus initiating a feud that's not entirely solely about the election (Monroe asks Sally out on a date, a move that rightly angers Handy).
Welcome to Mooseport contains one of those predictable storylines that one expects from a film of this sort, but initially, that aspect doesn't present that big of a problem. Director Donald Petrie keeps the pace quick, and the actors are exceedingly engaging. Hackman is expectedly charismatic, and though this is far from his best performance, this is the kind of role the actor excels in. Romano doesn't fare quite as well, despite his undeniable knack for comedy; his whiny manner of speaking starts out endearing but eventually becomes grating. The film contains a lot of enjoyable supporting performances - particularly Rip Torn as a crusty advisor and Fred Savage as an insecure minion - which is all well and good, until the movie begins to wear out its welcome (no pun intended).
Silly comedies generally don't fare all that well at over 90 minutes, and Welcome to Mooseport is no exception. There are just not enough elements in Tom Schulman's screenplay to keep us engaged for almost two hours, and the cliched nature of his script becomes harder and harder to ignore. The quirky small town folks that populate Mooseport are as quirky as one might expect, with stereotypes such as The Sassy Black Lady and The Gregarious Rabble Rouser wandering in and out of the frame. And since we know exactly how all this is going to end, the trek to the film's conclusion eventually becomes tiresome.
Welcome to Mooseport is inoffensively entertaining, a perfect home video rental.