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View Date: October 9th, 2002

Rating: ($$$$$ out of $$$$$)


Michael Moore
George W. Bush
Dick Clark
Charlton Heston
Marilyn Manson
John Nichols
Matt Stone

Written and Directed by:
Michael Moore

Related Viewings:
Big One, The (1997)
Roger & Me (1989)

Official Sites:
Bowling for Columbine

Also see my reviews at:


Cast information and links courtesy of logo.gif (2059 bytes)

Go To Reel Rambling Page



Bowling For Columbine

The title definitely grabs your attention: Bowling for Columbine, it sounds like a telethon or benefit of some kind, or just the tie-in between two seemingly unrelated topics.  But upon closer examination, as Moore's films are adept at doing, you find the title is actually rooted in part fact and part educated opinion, also like Moore's films.  Fact: The two students responsible for the horrific Columbine massacre tragedy were in a bowling class and actually went bowling the day of the shootings.  Opinion: It makes just as much sense to blame bowling for the massacre as it does to blame music, video games or movies.  With this film, Moore has made his masterpiece; a stunning piece of societal observance and dissection that pulls no punches and should be required viewing for every American.  

During a discussion forum following the screening, an audience member told of a joke that goes “You know you’re having a bad when your secretary buzzes you and tells you that Mike Wallace is waiting to see you”.  Well, you can now update that joke a bit by saying “You know you’re having a worse day if your secretary tells you that Michael Moore and his camera crew want to ask you some questions.  Just ask Roger Smith, the Nike president, Dick Clark, Bob Eubanks or Charlton Heston what this feels like, I’m sure the reaction won’t be too positive.  Moore has become the everyman version of Wallace, using his doughty look, curious nature and brazen persistence to show us a side of society that often gets intentionally neglected.  He asks the things we wonder about and yearn to ask.  From humorous (such as asking a former Cops director why they can’t do Corporate Cops, Enron would have their own miniseries) to frighteningly bold (showing Charlton Heston a picture of a young shooting victim and inquiring why he showed up in two cities that had just suffered tragic shooting episodes) Moore not only has no fear, but he has a way of showing things that doesn’t offer answers or solutions but shows all sides of a situation and lets the audience ascertain their own conclusion.  In Bowling for Columbine, Moore’s incendiary, controversial social commentary on guns, fear, racism and welfare, he has made his boldest movie yet.  Some would argue that he turns the focus on himself too much, inserting himself in every shot and ambushing interviewees, but what he actually does is get the truth, be it awful, hard to swallow or chillingly amusing.  Bowling is by far his best film yet, the masterpiece that he has been building towards since he first went in search of GM’s president.  One moment you will be belly laughing (such as going to a bank that gives you a gun for opening an account) the next moment you will be breathless (security camera footage from Columbine or blaming the CIA for 9/11) but one thing you will definitely be is impressed, awestruck and just a bit smarter.

From the opening riffs of Camper Van Beethoven's alternative classic, Take The Skinheads Bowling to Joey Ramone's morbid toned version of What A Wonderful World, we are captive to Michael Moore for two solid, at times painful but never dull, hours.  In a very fluid, relevant and persistent manner, Moore chronicles the horror at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado on a morning ironically, that began with the heaviest day of bombing in Kosovo.  He begins with a bank that hands out guns to people opening a certain type of account.  Only in America, and only Moore would find it.  He then loops effortlessly, hauntingly and forcefully through the connections to his home state of Michigan, then to the horror of a young girl being gunned down by another child.  In between are exchanges that make us laugh nervously because they are humorous, but dead-on.   Many may complain that Moore is the focal point the film, talking over, or appearing in nearly every scene.  But as you’ll see, there are moments when he simply lets the facts or quotes do the talking for him.  He knows when to shut up and what to show to make us silent as well.  Needless to say, Moses himself doesn’t come out looking very clean in Moore’s eyes.  By showing excerpts of Charlton Heston’s visits to Littleton and Flint (where the little girl was shot), along with some thoughtless and insensitive comments that screenwriters of Pauly Shore movies would even edit out, Moore lets Heston’s own words seal his fate. The finale of the film plays like a lawyer's cross examination of a key witness.  Moore has laid the groundwork, given us the facts and in doing so, made the final stanza that much more powerful.  I could go on and on about the moments of genius and horror in the film, but I want to save some of the power and revelation for those who really dare to see things as they are through his eyes. 

Bowling is a scathing expose of societal ills, represented in Moore’s typical humorous but brutally honest fashion.  Some may call him a sensationalist, someone who is capitalizing on tragedy to make money, while exploiting a system that has made him who he is.  To those people, I would scoff greatly and state that all Moore does is take advantage of the platform that was laid before him, and then points his weapon, a camera, in a direction that others were scared to.  He shows things as they happen, he doesn’t skew perspective or facts.  That frightens a lot of people into thinking that he must be manipulating something, somehow.  That fear is at the root of what he shows us in this film.  Americans thrive on fear, be it their own or someone else’s.  Thus explains the popularity of reality television, the intimidation and justification of military action, and the over reactionary events that litter our past.  Moore points these out in a chilling montage of facts, set to the tune of Louis Armstrong’s classic “What a Wonderful World”.  This fear is also represented in a funny, but painfully honest “Brief History of the United States of America”. Only he could mix in a taciturn Marilyn Manson making a lot of sense, the Michigan Militia, South Park, Dick Clark, the Y2K scare, killer bees vs. black people and Chris Rock, and make it all flow together, make sense and convey his message.

Ultimately, Bowling for Columbine is a modern masterpiece of social commentary, through the eyes of one of our own, a common man with no fear, searching for the truth amidst a cloud of confusing contradictions.  There are some things in this world that are just too unbelievable to be made up.  Moore finds these things and uses them as sarcastic but realistic ammunition in his own personal war that has the majority of America’s support.  The things he finds slip under our radar screens, covered by the smoke of what the media wants us to see and now.  The film is so chilling and seemingly improbable, that you have laugh nervously (Militia Babes calendar, come on!).  With this film, Moore has shown that fame and fortune, well what fortune he doesn’t donate of course, have not dulled his inimitable knack for discovering and displaying the eccentric flaws in the perceived perfection that we call reality.  Bowling for Columbine is relentless, frightening, funny, shameless, fearless and quite possibly the most powerful message ever delivered by an overweight guy in a Michigan State baseball cap.  My adjectives and big words cannot do justice to the work of art that this film is, just see it and think twice the next time you pass a K-Mart.

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