The Big One Movie Review

For a movie with a title like The Big One, Michael Moore's follow-up to Roger & Me is awfully small. It's a mishmash of corporate butt-kickery, political naysaying, and self-indulgence, courtesy of Moore's random walk across America during a late-'90s book tour.

Moore flies from city to city to expose the Hard Times he's become well known for. A Payday factory is shut down. Borders workers in Des Moines are getting wages deducted for a health plan that has no doctor in the city. Moore complains about vegetables on his McDonald's fish sandwich and how life went in the toilet in Flint, Michigan. He goes on a tirade (admittedly, a hysterical tirade) about how Steve Forbes (then running for president) was an alien. He gives a lot of speeches. He shepherds the unemployed (who mysteriously seem to lose their jobs the one day he's in town). And eventually he sets his sights on Phil Knight and Nike, whose outsourced manufacturing has long been rumored to be the product of child labor.

If this all sounds a bit random it is -- only not a bit, it's completely random and without any focus at all. What's "the big one," anyway? Who knows. It's certainly not Phil Knight, who runs around Moore intellectually even though he's clearly in the moral wrong. Moore's big victory: He gets Knight to shake his hand as a pledge to consider opening a factory in Flint. Right. (Per media reports, little to nothing has changed about Nike's manufacturing since this film was made... eight years ago.) (OK, to be honest "The Big One" is Moore's suggested new name for the United States.)

The Big One is funniest when Moore is being alternately ass-kissed and outright lied to by Random House and bookstores where he's speaking. A running gag invloves the Random House publicist "escorts," bubbleheaded women who cringe at Moore's every move. His attempts to undermine their "authority" are priceless, though of course they're largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of the film.

As usual, Moore's running monologue is full of inconsistencies: Moore eats fast food at every meal (not exactly an industry known for treating its employees well). He flies first class while listening to the flight attendents complain that they haven't had a raise in 20 years. He rides the free cart in the airport while complaining about people who ride the free cart in the airport.

The good news is he knows he's ridiculous, and he kind of makes fun of it. Does that absolve Moore of making a movie without much of a point? Not really, but The Big One is ultimately a good intro to Moore's rhetoric -- as if that's something any of us really need.

You can now get the film in a box set with Bowling for Columbine and a bonus DVD featuring outtakes from various speeches Moore has given on his latest book tour.


The Big One Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG-13, 1997


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