2008-10-31 / Columnists


'W.' — Bushwhacked
By Robert Snyder

One day, provocateur filmmaker Oliver Stone will release a biopic on an American president before he is elected to the nation's top spot. That way, he could bring the clairvoyance of his 1987 film, "Wall Street," to the election process.

As it is, the ground he covers in his George W. Bush portrait, "W.," has been so well traveled in numerous books, documentaries and comedy skits that Stone's muckraking is surprisingly mediocre. While it features sterling acting honors from Richard Dreyfuss (Dick Cheney), James Cromwell

George H.W. Bush), Ellen Burstyn (Barbara Bush), and particularly Josh Brolin (George W.), the film in its determination to retread old news is a hard pull through 129 minutes.

Not that showman Stone doesn't pull out all stops in his effort to entertain. A lot of time is spent chronicling George W.'s partying period from Yale frat binge drinking to Texas boozing barbecues. We also see the insecure "Junior" always under the shadow of his high achiever brother, Jeb, and his doubting one-term U.S. President father, George H.W. And, much is made of the behind-the-scenes Iraqi War strategies.

But Stone's major problem is keeping the tone tragic and away from political satire. Here, Brolin has the biggest burden. His impersonation of the 43rd president isn't too far off from that of onetime Saturday Night Live regular, Will Ferrell. It's questionable whether New England preppy George W. himself isn't, in fact, imitating his idea of a John Wayne-Davy Crockett Texan.

We are also led to believe that George W. really did have a spiritual calling from God to run for U.S. president. The comparison is even made between him and the stuttering Moses. If this is true, then it would explain why W. failed in almost every enterprise except as governor of Texas and as two-term president of the United States. It would also provide the reason why we're waging a costly war that nobody seems to want. Is this funny? Is it tragic? Stone doesn't seem sure.

Is it George W.? Definitely.

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