Posted November 5, 2012 by Alex Moss Editor in Films
 
 

Grassroots


American politics is proving quite the punchline at the polls.

American politics is proving quite the punchline at
the polls.
While Zach Galifianakis and Will
Ferrell
go at it in The Campaign,
Mitt Romney is proving his comedic
worth by running for President when surely a partially-sighted badger would
prove a better world leader. So it
should come as no surprise to learn that Grassroots
is another comedy about American politics, albeit on a smaller scale, and it’s
based on a true story, a real underdog one. So that’s nice.

It’s 2001 and
Phil Campbell (Jason Biggs) has just
been fired from a Seattle newspaper he really didn’t like writing for. His girlfriend Em (Lauren Ambrose) tells him this is good for him. But when his best friend Grant Cogswell
(Joel David Moore) hears this, he
pounces on the opportunity to rope Phil into helping him run for a spot on the
local city council. You see Grant
is sick to the back teeth with incumbent councilman Richard McIver (Cedric The Entertainer) promising to
help the Seattle transport system and repeatedly failing to deliver. Grant wants to utilise the monorail
that rides above the city streets, so sets out on an aggressive campaign to get
elected.

The whole ‘based
on a true story’ thing is all well and good but only if it tells an interesting
one. Grassroots doesn’t do
that. Every beat comes like a big
foghorn across the Seattle Bay, every pseudo-comedic moment forced with
profanity just for the sake of it and all the characters are essentially either
unlikeable or just dull. It’s like
Erin Brockovich minus Julia Roberts’ brilliant timing and
cleavage. And shoehorned into the
middle is a very misguided romance between Biggs and How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie
Smulders
that lends nothing to the proceedings other than to have a pretty
face grace the screen for all of five minutes of the film’s duration.

Wisely realising
that many of his characters don’t exactly tick the likeability box, director Stephen Gyellenhaal (daddy to Jake and
Maggie) chooses instead to showcase Seattle as a city. This isn’t the grunge home of Kurt Cobain but rather a beautiful
city, surrounded by mountains and water, that just needs a little care and
attention to make it the place Grant Cogswell wants it to be.

While most of the
film feels slightly flat it does hit a chord when the inevitable date of 9/11
comes round. For a fleeting moment
the characters are forced to look at something bigger than their petty political
squabbling. But then it’s gone,
spun into a rousing speech about why, given all the adversity America is
facing, the little things matter.
This is all then undermined by a bizarre accusation that Cogswell is
only looking to oust McIver because the incumbent politician is black! But the biggest problem, which in
fairness people keep pointing out to Phil and Grant, is Grant has none, zero,
zip political nouse or knowledge.
He has one policy, to make the monorail the main source of transport
throughout the city and that’s it.
Would you vote for this guy?
Life truly is stranger than fiction.

Joel David Moore
is obviously trying to lose the geeky sidekick label he’s been given thanks to
his supporting role in Avatar but
his Cogswell is never appealing.
One minutes he’s shouty and angry, the next he’s sulky and morose. Biggs meanwhile is essentially playing
a slightly more mature version of his American Pie persona even down to the
ginger girlfriend. He’s not bad in
the role; it’s more that the role is nothing special, just a guy trying to help
his friend win a popularity contest against unlikely odds.

Ultimately,
Grassroots loses its deposit; it’s not funny, it’s not clever and it doesn’t
have a point to make that hasn’t been made countless times before and
infinitely better. Demand a
recount.


Alex Moss Editor

 
Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com