For about 3 years of George W. Bush's first term in office, you couldn't find a liberal angrier (but also lazier) than Yours Truly. Like so many others, I was disenchanted with the reckless abandon by which the country was being steered toward catastrophe (endless war, endless spying, the erosion of civil liberties); and, like so many others, I thought John Kerry was our knight in shining armor, a Vietnam Vet who could do no wrong (or so we wanted to believe--hell, anyone would have been better than Bush, right?). In the 2004 elections, both sides (sorry, Ralph) were convinced their guy was The One, which led to a suspenseful November 2nd that ended in a fizzle. Not long after, this once-hardcore liberal packed his bags and moved to apathy.
Which brings me to 'Homecoming,' Joe Dante's brazenly opportunistic entry in the "Masters of Horror" anthology series. America is involved in an anonymous war that has come under scrutiny by liberals and the general public during an election year; when campaign adviser John Tenney wishes for a grieving mother's felled son to return, he quite literally wakes the dead. Returned home in flag-draped caskets, the dead rise--not for tasty human flesh, not for a trip to the mall, but to vote against the administration that put them in harm's way for a lie.
In the supplements, Dante makes no secret of his disdain for the current administration, and indeed, some of the characters in 'Homecoming' barely stray from CNN--Karl Rove, Ann Coulter, Katherine Harris, and Cindy Sheehan all get fictional counterparts.
While sporadically engrossing (including a few effectively tender moments) and humorous, the sledgehammer-obvious satire 'Homecoming' hinges on comes off as forced and ultimately unfulfilling. With material like this, timing is everything (Michael Moore knew to release "Fahrenheit 9/11" before the 2004 elections), and the real tragedy of Dante's film is that it didn't come out 2 years ago, when its message would have carried an energy that would have energized the dissidents further. In 2006, mockery of the well-settled Bush Administration hardly seems as controversially compelling (or imperiled) as it did then.
'Homecoming' shouldn't be faulted for any of this, but it doesn't necessarily help the episode, which is well-executed in concept. Decent production values, fine performances, and a few chuckles at the expense of the media and far-right Holy Rollers helps, and Dante keeps things moving at a reasonable pace (though the third act seems to rush through things due to time constraints).
It's just...too...unfortunate, damn it.