The NYPost's Lou Lumenick reviews Michael Moore's new fictional piece "Fahrenheit 9/11"
President Bush need not lose any sleep over Michael Moore's much-hyped "Fahrenheit 9/11," which turns out to be a wet firecracker.
Moore's virulent feature-length attack on Bush, which premiered yesterday to a 20-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, falls far short of delivering on the filmmaker's extravagant promises of election-swinging revelations.
"You will see things you haven't seen before and learn things you have not learned before," he vowed on Sunday.
Well, maybe if you spent the last three years hiding in a cave in Afghanistan.
Sure, there's some media-grabbing footage - apparently shot by one of the camera crews Moore claims to have smuggled in with embedded troops - of American soldiers laughing as they place hoods over Iraqi prisoners, and one GI touching a detainee's genitals through a blanket.
But that footage actually conflicts with one of Moore's main arguments - that GIs have been victimized by being forced to participate in what he considers to be the unnecessary and immoral invasion of Iraq.
Moore's big stop-the-presses revelation is that the name of an old pal of the president who works for the bin Laden family was excised from 1972 National Guard records released by the White House in 2002. Yawn.
Mostly Moore dusts off a litany of old accusations against the president - whom he portrays as both a buffoon and a world-class conspirator - and lands few solid blows as he takes on targets like the Patriot Act and supposed war profiteering by the politically connected Halliburton Corp.
The sheer scope of the material he's trying to cover in a two-hour documentary - the Sept. 11 attacks rate maybe five minutes - leads to incredibly superficial and misleading treatment at times.
As a critic who awarded Moore's Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine" four stars, I was particularly disappointed with "Fahrenheit 9/11."
In "Columbine," Moore had something new to say about the gun-control debate and did so in a refreshingly entertaining manner.
"9/11" does not lend itself to such a glib approach, and while Moore may get laughs by presenting Bush and his staff in a brief "Bonanza" spoof titled "Afghanistan," the humor often seems much more forced here.
By far the best sequence features Lila Lipscomb, a woman from Moore's hometown of Flint, Mich., who lost her Marine son in Vietnam.
But when she tries to go to the White House to express her antiwar feelings, Moore ends up delivering a pallid echo of the high point of "Columbine," where victims of that high school massacre descend on Kmart headquarters to demand that the chain stop selling ammunition.
Far from the political hot potato Moore has been tub-thumping to secure a rich U.S. distribution deal and the July opening he lusts after - after Miramax was forced to sell it at the insistence of its corporate parent, Disney - "Fahrenheit 9/11" is more like a lot of hot air.