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Ray Romano has made another sitcom in Welcome to Mooseport. It’s 90 minutes long and only at theaters, but it’s still a sitcom.

My Worthy Opponent

Sally gets in the way of a comic political battle between Handy and the Prez
Sally gets in the way of a comic political battle between Handy and the Prez

Former president Monroe Eagle Cole lost his home in his divorce, so he’s moving into his summer home in Mooseport, Maine. The small town gives him a hero’s welcome. The town council invites the ex-president to run, unopposed, for mayor. His handlers say no, but Cole says yes.

Unbeknownst to the council, the local plumber and hardware store owner “Handy” Harrison (Romano) also filed to run for mayor. Handy is happy to bow out of the race until he realizes the former president has made a pass at his girl, Sally (Maura Tierney). Now he insists on a political showdown.

At this point, Cole might have taken himself off the ballot (rather than face losing an election to a plumber), but the press has gotten hold of the story, and his competitive gland has been stimulated. Cole decides to fight back, primarily for Sally, but also for the election.

Sound Bites, Not Substance

The idea of a former president running for mayor against a local boy is pretty good for a lightweight comedy or TV sitcom. But the tacked-on fight over “the girl” spoils the promising political comedy. One of Handy’s advisors says “lose the election, lose Sally,” as though we care more about their contrived relationship than a mayoral race against the president. And it doesn’t even make sense within the movie, because Sally couldn’t care less who wins the election. All she wants is for Handy to propose.

Perhaps if Sally and Handy were better fleshed out we might care more about them. But nothing in Mooseport has any real substance. Even big names like Hackman, Romano, Rip Torn, and Marcia Gay Harden fail to give the movie any weight (although to their credit it looks like they’re having fun).

Mooseport introduces plot points two and three times, as though audiences are incapable of holding more than one thought in their heads. And to warm us up, it starts with a barrage of cheap, irrelevant jokes, like the shot of Handy’s pit bull humping Cole’s yorkie, or Cole comparing sizes with Clinton (of presidential libraries, speaking fees, etc.).

Mooseport is no more substantial than a sitcom. It’s 22 minutes of entertainment, padded out to a long 90 minutes. Save your money and your time, and stay home and watch TV.