4 September 2004 | al-eaton
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - Again
I missed this TNT original back in 2000 and, honestly, forgot all about it. I was browsing through my Netflix listings one day and there it was. I sat down to watch it without any preconceived views and was pleasantly surprised by the result.
I've read some other critical reviews of this movie on this website. Frankly, I'm surprised by some of the comments. What the heck is wrong with just an old-fashioned, "feel good" movie? And who better to pull these off than a stellar cast like the one featured here? I'm not expecting aching Russian drama. I'm not really expecting the ironic, leave the theatre wondering twist of Redford's THE CANDIDATE.
I do agree with one reviewer that the build up to Selleck's final speech on the platform at the convention lacked tension. I was reminded of Rob Reiner's THE American PRESIDENT, when we see President Sheppard walking the halls of the White House, mulling things over after his scene with girlfriend Annette Benning. That build up to his final scene when he gives his passionate speech to the White House press Pool was nicely staged. We knew he was going to do the right thing. The tension was in wondering when, and especially how, he was going to do it.
Tom Selleck is a powerful presence on screen. Good looking and with a voice that carries charm and deep emotion. His portrait of Gen. Eisenhower (while he didn't actually look a hick of lot like Ike, or have Ike's high pitched voice) did convey honor and genuine, deep emotions. He gave us not an exact portrait of Ike, but an emotional one, much like George C. Scott's portrait of Gen. Patton.
It takes such an actor to deliver speeches like the one that climaxes both RUNNING MATES and THE American PRESIDENT. It is the emotional portrait, rather than an exact photograph that is at the core of movies like these. This may not be the way it is, we agree, but it darn well is the way it should be. Give me a good guy, a hero who must be tempted, and occasionally swayed, but who can be counted on in the end to do the right thing. Obvious and predictable? Sure. But what's wrong with heroes?
This film is also not at all a waste of the talents of Laura Linney, Teri Hatcher, Nancy Travis or Faye Dunaway. It's good entertainment. It's more of a MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON than it is THE BEST MAN, (Henry Fonda) one of the very best political dramas on stage or screen. Many film critics begin their reviews by saying that "this movie could have been so much better if only . . . " What they're really saying is, " . . . if only I had written the script or directed." I look at films for what they actually are and look for their strengths before complaining about their weaknesses, the famous "if only."