by David Cornelius
“See Arnold Run” is a made-for-TV biopic about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bid for the governorship of California.Right there, that one sentence says it all, yes? From those few words alone, we already know that a) it will be an embarrassing whitewash account of Arnie’s rise to power; b) it will star a few C-listers and a handful of look-alike unknowns, with the filmmakers going for imitation value, not performance value; c) it will be bad, but no more or less than, say, “Daydream Believers: The Monkees Story.”
"Yet another nasty side effect of letting a movie star be your governor."
What’s a cheesy telepic without a couple of overreaching ideas? Hats off to screenwriter Matt Dorff (no stranger to the TV biopic craparama, having previously penned “Growing Up Brady,” “Inside the Osmonds,” “Mr. Rock ’n’ Roll: The Alan Freed Story,” and, yes, even “Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Charlie’s Angels”), who, in his adaptation of Nigel Andrews’ book “True Myths,” structures the story so that the 2003 campaign parallels Scwarzenegger’s 1974 go at the Mr. Olympia title.
It’s not enough to cut back and forth between the two events - Dorff works overtime finding every little connection, no matter how flimsy. Which might work in a kooky psychological-study sense, had it not turned out so damn loopy. It’s one thing to watch Arnold scowl at Lou Ferrigno’s picture and, in a bit of Stuart Smalley self-affirmation, tells himself, “I’m bigger! Stronger! Greater!!” But when we then see him stare down Gray Davis’ mug on TV and whisper those same words to himself, we collectively smack our foreheads.
The entire screenplay sets up little moments like this, juggling the parallels of Arnold’s two pseudo-inspirational rises to glory with even lamer attempts at showcasing his “life plan.” The filmmakers to great lengths to paint Schwarzenegger as a man with a goal and the desire to see that goal out. Some viewers of the Arnie Fan variety will find inspiration in this guy’s dedication. But the film emphasizes this idea at the expense of any real insight regarding its title character. Here is a man who entered politics during one of the nation’s most insane moments in modern history - the California recall election - and all Dorff and director James B. Rogers (“American Pie 2,” “Knee High P.I.”) care about is showing how if you’re determined enough, you too can get what you want.
Because, I suppose, covering the nitty gritty of state politics (not to mention the complexities of his past, such as the steroid use the film goes out of its way to defend and then quickly ignore) would require thought, astuteness, maybe even a little courage, while it’s much easier to cover in schmaltzy detail (right down to the slo-mo black-and-white flashbacks) Arnie’s childhood issues with a dad who liked Arnie’s brother better.
But a shoddy script and generic direction alone do not a TV movie make. No, you need some serious mistakes in the casting department. For the 2003 Schwarzenegger, we get Jürgen Prochnow, who’s buried under so much make-up in the hopes of making him look more like Arnold that he actually winds up looking like a zombie version of Ronald Reagan. The voice is no better, as the actor delivers an accent that sounds like somebody trying to do a Schwarzenegger impression but giving up half way.
Roland Kickinger, as 1974 Schwarzenegger, fares little better. He’s got the body for it, to be sure, and his Austrian roots ensure that his voice is just as clunky as the real Arnold’s was back then. But he also has young Arnie’s vapidity, which makes it difficult to care about his character.
The real fun begins when the filmmakers roll out their non-Arnold cast. Mariel Hemingway camps it up as Maria Shriver, played here as a screechy, manipulative shrew (who, by the way, gets to answer the phone by yelling, “Oprah! Girlfriend!” - yikes). Nora Dunn plays Arianna Huffington as if she were still on “Saturday Night Live.” And Kristen Shaw’s take on a young Barbara Walters is what happens when somebody tries to do a Barbara Walters impression but tones town the lisp in the hopes of not actually sounding like Barbara Walters.
By the way, in the scene with Walters, she’s immediately smitten by Arnie’s smooth talk. She even gets to ask of his bicep, “Can I touch it?” (Followed, of course, by babbling fawning.) Perhaps unintentionally, probably not, this scene - and dozens more like it - shows the movie unbuttoning its shirt and greaseballing, “c’mon, ladies, it’s all just a misunderstanding.” The whole grope scandal is as glossed over as everything else here. Which suggests that not only are the filmmakers canonizing Schwarzenegger, they’re breathlessly hoping to ignore all the parts of his life that are actually interesting - because those are the parts that aren’t so positive.So all we’re left with is forgettable, often laughable fluff too uninterested in putting forth any actual effort. But then, what would you expect from a telepic from the director of “Say It Isn’t So,” written by the guy who gave us “Category 6: Day of Destruction,” starring the guy from “Son of the Beach?”
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originally posted: 09/20/05 14:42:57