TORONTO — Those who take in Michael Moore’s latest documentary expecting something along the incendiary lines of a “Sicko” or “Fahrenheit 9/11” may not know what didn’t hit them.
Essentially a souvenir of Moore’s 2004 pre-election college campus tour of the nation, designed to rally the young pro-Kerry/Edwards troops into the voting booths, “Captain Mike Across America” has its amusing moments and some engaging musical performances.
But at the end of the day, much of the film feels more like the stuff of glorified DVD bonus features, designed to buy a little time while Moore sharpens his daggers for his next target.
Even with the likes of Eddie Vedder, R.E.M. and Viggo Mortensen assisting in the tub-thumping, this Weinstein Co. release is going to have a tricky time mobilizing moviegoers who are accustomed to more substantial Moore.
Undertaken by Moore over the course 45 days prior to the 2004 presidential election, his whirlwind 62-stop engagement, which he dubbed the Slacker Uprising Tour, was looking to tip those tightly balanced scales in favor of the Democrats.
When not clutching the podium and spouting impassioned rhetoric with the zeal of a real candidate, Moore introduces some of his famous friends, who either add their own two cents worth, like Mortensen and a razor-sharp Roseanne Barr, or express their anti-war sentiments in song, like Vedder (channeling Cat Stevens aka Yusef Islam) or Steve Earle.
Most moving of all is veteran peacenik Joan Baez, who turned her selection — Finland’s national anthem of all things — into a stirring prayer for unity and tolerance.
That aspect of the Michael Moore Traveling Show is entertaining enough, as are quintessential Moore bits, like parodies of that Kerry-bashing swift boat spot, which he offered up to the Republican Party as his way of presenting an olive branch.
But just when it looks as if he’s about to address something more substantial — like Kerry’s 15 days of silence before addressing the approval damaging spot — he instead cuts to another star-studded stop in his dream gig.
Other sequences, meanwhile, where he sings the praises of the men and women of our military for their sacrifices, play like extended out-takes from “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
Technically speaking, the footage, overseen by director of photography Bernardo Loyola, who doubles as editor, has the intimacy and immediacy of a concert film, albeit one stuffed with greatest hits medleys.
CAPTAIN MIKE ACROSS AMERICA
The Weinstein Co.
The Weinstein Co. presents a Dog Eat Dog Films production
Director-writer: Michael Moore
Producer: Monica Hampton
Executive producers: Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein
Director of photography: Bernardo Loyola
Editor: Bernardo Loyola
Running time — 97 minutes
No MPAA rating