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8 reviews, 168 user ratings

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Bowling for Columbine
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by The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"Almost brilliant"
4 stars

I’ve lived in Michael Moore country. As a teenager in Michigan I held a job at a bowling alley, which was a popular hangout for the local sociopaths. Kids with intense anger and resentment at nothing in particular, kids who talked about almost nothing except all the fistfights they’d been in, kids who were doomed to spend their lives wandering around the chilly, vacant milieu of southeastern Michigan. When they weren’t trying to pick fights with me, I felt sorry for them. I think I sensed we had more in common than any of us really knew. We were all trapped in the same way. No, not trapped: stranded; there’s a difference, but I won’t go into that. My father, an assembly-line worker, was a member of the National Rifle Association. When he watched movies he could instantly identify the make of any gun that appeared on screen. He once took me to nearby Flint to visit “Autoworld,” the short-lived tourist trap featured so prominently in Moore’s “Roger & Me.”

Moore’s new documentary, Bowling for Columbine, employs this backdrop for its examination of violence in America, and it all hit me in a way I didn’t think was possible, almost like a forgotten memory rushing back into consciousness. I’m not certain what it’s doing for other people, but you can hear the adulation all the way from France, where Columbine won a special award at Cannes. This is in part, no doubt, because the film seems to reinforce the mindless stereotypes Europeans harbor about America. But that’s not quite fair, because Bowling for Columbine is almost a great documentary. If Moore had only known where to stop, he would have had a masterpiece. At it stands, it’s merely a very compelling, thoughtful movie.

As in his prior works, Moore stars as Everyman, unassumingly poking his nose around where it doesn’t belong and asking the hard questions. The central question here is simple: Why is America so violent? It’s not an especially novel question, and many would-be pop-culture commentators have drowned themselves in glib sociological claptrap while trying to provide an answer. Moore, though, doesn’t go for the easy solutions. Instead, he hits the road, ranging all the way from his hometown (where he interviews the Michigan Militia) to Littleton, Colorado (site of the infamous Columbine shooting), to not-so-sunny L.A. (where he whines about the smog problem) to Canada (where he finds the locals awfully similar to their southern neighbors in most ways). On a strictly dramatic level, the film is rarely less than absorbing, as Moore demonstrates a solid sense of pacing, and the many montages—assembled from news footage, old industrials, and so forth—are very well edited.

The film is constructed like a mystery. You can feel the tension as Moore, artfully knocking down ideological opponents left and right (literally), moves closer to—it seems—some great revelation. Why does America have so many problems? A violent history whose repercussions continue to this day? No, many countries are similar in this respect. Heavy metal? No—and here Moore brings in Marilyn Manson for the defense. Easy access to guns? No (surprised?), placid Canada allows this, too. What, then?

It sounds like we’re on to something. But Moore keeps getting sidetracked. He’s so busy shooting down every target in sight—Moore is an NRA member, so I can use this metaphor—that at times he seems not to know what argument he’s trying to make. At one point he provides a newsreel history of U.S. imperialism over the past fifty years, while “What a Wonderful World” plays in the background. Aside from wallowing in heavy-handed irony, this is all beside the point: What does Manuel Noriega have to do with the Columbine shooting? Do kids in suburban America deserve to be shot because of Vietnam? A more damaging digression occurs when Moore visits L.A. First, he whines about the smog problem (thanks for noticing, Michael), then we get a lengthy (though funny) tirade about the “Cops” TV show, which allegedly promotes racism—and this is after Moore pokes fun at people who fret about the pernicious influence of television. At moments like this, Moore isn’t making a point as much as he’s just heaping scorn at random, while Le Monde and the Cannes jury nod in approval. Yep, America is one screwed up country.

Regardless, Columbine carries real power. Moore shows actual footage of the Columbine incident in progress, as recorded on a security camera, and a series of caught-on-tape shootings. And it never seems sensationalistic, as it might in the hands of a hack, because Moore’s compassion is always in view.

You can see this in his interview with NRA head Charlton Heston—but you can also see where Moore perhaps twists his material to suit his purposes. The interview ends abruptly when Moore, uncharacteristically angry, demands that Heston apologize for his tactless pro-gun pronouncements. Heston just walks away. Clearly, we’re supposed to take this as a damning self-indictment on Heston’s part—or was he just upset at being confronted? The crowd I sat with collectively gasped when Heston spoke about “mixed ethnicities” as an ongoing national problem—but is this blind racism, or simply his way of articulating that race problems are still with us? The crowd also gasped when Heston made a seemingly flippant remark about the Civil Rights Movement—but how many knew that he was once affiliated with it?

This isn’t typical of Moore’s procedure. He’s good at getting people to hang themselves without provocation; you’d think some of his subjects, with all their foolhardy candor, didn’t know the cameras were rolling. As an example of documentary-as-satire, Bowling for Columbine succeeds far more than it fails, and the failures aren’t fatal.

Moore has taken on a big subject, and it’s no surprise that, in the end, his reach proves to be longer than his grasp. But the effort was worthwhile. In fact, this movie is so good it probably WON’T win the Best Documentary Oscar.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6198&reviewer=223
originally posted: 10/13/02 02:25:19
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
This film is listed in our political documentary series. For more in the Political Documentary series, click here.

User Comments

6/28/20 stanza Thought provoking doc about the Yanks love affair with guns 5 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell interesting not great gun nuts & red necks beware 4 stars
10/04/13 yorktown sucks 1 stars
2/08/12 David Hollingsworth Bizarre, funny, and chilling 5 stars
10/17/10 advanced simplicity its amazing how people fail to see the importance and meaning of this movie..grow up.. 5 stars
12/30/09 Dane Youssef Perhaps the greatest documentary ever made. Everything about the world and then some. 5 stars
9/25/08 Shaun Wallner Boring!! 1 stars
4/02/08 beau michael moore reminds me of family guy! a good argument and a really well made doco! 4 stars
6/19/07 --- Gun violence result of welfare cuts? Thats a stretch. Loses focus in the 2nd half 3 stars
2/12/07 johnnyfog Good first half, but Moore bends truth, and completely loses focus 4 stars
1/08/07 CJBlalock brilliant masterwork, Charlton Heston unveiled! 5 stars
11/28/06 David Pollastrini Liberal trash 1 stars
7/10/06 chienne The pro-con argument; wonderfully done; US obssession with guns brought to the fore. Bravo 5 stars
3/18/06 MP Bartley Barnstorming entertainment. Funny, tragic, scandalous and shocking. 5 stars
10/19/05 john smith Moore is a fat sack of crap 1 stars
9/19/05 R.W. Welch Moore discovers USA is not perfect. Simplistic but nicely ironic. 4 stars
8/17/05 ES manson gets a quiet sit down interview, the protestors get snippets cut from their speeches 4 stars
6/08/05 Agent Sands One of the most important movies ever made. 5 stars
5/10/05 Katie Malone Moore is the master of documentaries 4 stars
11/10/04 John Aster Habig This documentary is as monumentous as Catcher In The Rye Heston looks like a jerk 5 stars
11/10/04 john a very true commentary on suburban America and its death culture 5 stars
11/02/04 Evan Interesting flick 5 stars
9/21/04 eric Lemus Great!!! Must See!!! 5 stars
9/14/04 Dannyboy Forget "Bowling", you lot wana watch "Gun Traffic",that's if you can get hold of a copy. 4 stars
8/17/04 Nykytaz Hard to decide what to believe, but sure makes you think about it twice. 5 stars
8/09/04 BigBlack This IS a film worthy of seeing multiple times. The animated satire scene is hilarious!! 5 stars
8/04/04 Snickerdoodle Makes you laugh one minute and cry the next and in the end, really makes you think. 5 stars
7/19/04 G no even close to being a documentary 1 stars
7/18/04 Gray "white people are lazy" fuck you fat bigoted SOB traitor 1 stars
6/24/04 sumixam confronting, hard hitting, must see documentary 5 stars
6/23/04 John Aster Habig This documentary is as monumentous as Catcher In The Rye Heston looks like a jerk 5 stars
6/13/04 Daveman I'm against capitalism, but I don't don't see what this film is trying to get at. 2 stars
6/07/04 Evan shockingly true, sadly. 5 stars
5/24/04 William Horrid fantasy purporting to be a documentary. Could be better if not advertised as truth. 1 stars
5/19/04 Proteus Wish conservatives would watch this and try to understand what prompted it - and laugh. 5 stars
4/24/04 Zack Morris Fucking yanks. It's because guns are legal over there. They deserve to die.Still,good movie 5 stars
4/23/04 star one sided on some issues, but halarious in alot of the truths and irony 5 stars
4/19/04 ALI HBOUS Simply a Fantastic piece of work 5 stars
4/06/04 John Aster Habig A great riveting documentary for liberal outsiders 5 stars
3/24/04 kyle huntley it is not what the average person sees its what he wonts us to see. 1 stars
3/10/04 Melissa Blunt and honest....Good perspectives. 5 stars
3/10/04 Ron simon This movie was a great way of showing "realty" and the problems the united states face. 4 stars
3/08/04 bsho76 Thought-prevoking...probably why gun nuts don't like this movie 5 stars
3/08/04 david tomlin Very funny in places, dull for stretches. Rambling, illogical, uninformative. 3 stars
3/06/04 zaw Sad But Truth!!!!! this is the best movie about America!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/28/04 Joseph Storozhev no holds barred to the point, should be part of school's must see 5 stars
12/30/03 the Grinch Thoughtful Satirementary. BUT: Rockers aren't responsible, but Cops and Dick Clark are? 4 stars
12/30/03 Chlo Gyllenhaal Michael Moore is the best fucking thing to come out of America! 5 stars
12/28/03 Agent Sands THIS is the truth. This is the right answer to all left- & right-wing radicals! Brilliant! 5 stars
12/13/03 Noel R Very Well Madel Thought Provoking; Moore though took advantage of Heston 5 stars
11/27/03 John insightful, moving and brilliant - and surprisingly filled with hope -it's stunning! 5 stars
11/25/03 Claudia Daw Deceptive Mike-umentary, full of blather and dribble. HIstorically inaccurate. 1 stars
10/28/03 Michael Buckley This was as real a documentary as the Blair Witch Project was. 1 stars
10/16/03 JC if you want one sided, watch the news 5 stars
10/09/03 Erik Van Sant Staggering and inspiring. Michael Moore tells it like it is. Frightening. 5 stars
9/19/03 Jestyr it was a bit one sided 2 stars
9/19/03 Nancy S Excellent 5 stars
9/14/03 Avia Great Movie 5 stars
9/03/03 BillHead This movie says some pretty profound things, but think you think, what's his point? 3 stars
8/30/03 DM Funny and thought-provoking- and YES, I do think it is a real documentary 5 stars
8/27/03 anna durovic Great job dude! 5 stars
8/21/03 Gray moore make some good points but many bad ones 2 stars
8/20/03 Don Film illustrates why violence, not pornography, should concern U.S. parents. 4 stars
8/16/03 Tavis This movie is Michael's best yet. 5 stars
8/07/03 zotteLORRE there are definitely wackos out there (even some of them are president) 5 stars
8/02/03 phil this movie and anyone that likes it sucks 1 stars
8/02/03 john This film makes me want to never see a movie again 1 stars
7/29/03 Tam Stirred every single emotion in my being. One of the best films I've ever seen! 5 stars
7/27/03 E ML.com nitpicks and half-truths worse than they say Moore does. Great film. 5 stars
7/21/03 stephan w It made me mad 4 stars
6/01/03 Rob A must see. Opens your eyes and releases your mind. No better time than now. 5 stars
5/27/03 Shawnda Totally blown away 5 stars
5/25/03 RightWingTitsShouldDie Figure out the own truth you dumb ass. 5 stars
5/25/03 Jayson Blaire, NY Times Couldn't of been truer if I had written it myself! 1 stars
5/25/03 Fisk Black One-sided propaganda. It's not a documentary, it's just Moore venting again. 1 stars
5/24/03 bowling for the Truth truths+half thruths+lies+a cause/agenda = propaganda, enjoy ur ignorance 1 stars
5/16/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back Mo'Fos!) Michael Moore is an ass-kicker. I'm w/ dude & Bueller completely! 5 stars
4/29/03 Jamie It takes guts to make a movie like this; one of the best filmsever 5 stars
4/26/03 Alain Francois Thought provoking well worth seeing 5 stars
4/12/03 Michael Heron False claims of false claims are all the debunked have to offer. 5 stars
4/11/03 Bueller A biting, and thought provoking commentary on some pertinent social issues. 5 stars
4/09/03 Benjamin Wolf Sorry, I can't endorse a film the profits from the Columbine tragedy. 1 stars
4/08/03 Richard Glover Since when are lies and propaganda a documentary? 1 stars
4/08/03 William Payer Making Money From Columbine 1 stars
4/05/03 dude well i dunno but i watched for 2 hours,US great white satan yousa! 5 stars
4/04/03 Da Main Man Lockheed Martin were making rockets to launch satallites there you dumbass sheep. 1 stars
4/04/03 Jack Bourbon Move to Canada, Moore. And stop lying, BTW. 4 stars
3/25/03 Tehmina An intelligent, thought-provoking masterpiece. Humourous & melancholy by turn. 5 stars
3/25/03 Michael Moore is a jackass Even if I were for gun control, I'd want to own a gun just to piss off Michael Moore! 1 stars
3/24/03 Feknoze Shock and Awe - Is this what the Americans mean by shock and Awe? 5 stars
3/24/03 Clarence Beeks What's next for this pig, 1 stars
3/24/03 Yo Mama! I think the David Bowie song puts it best: "I'm afraid of Americans" 5 stars
3/17/03 Bobbie Robinson Very informative and very depressing 5 stars
2/21/03 Jim the movie geek has everything - humour, tragedy, sensitivity and insight, we need Mike. 5 stars
2/20/03 A. Kane Extremely thought-provoking yet hilarious 5 stars
2/09/03 Sinem Saban Should be compulsory viewing if the truth is ever to be known. 5 stars
1/27/03 Tina Turner Awesome 5 stars
1/25/03 Matt Moore is a liar. And he likes to pester people he doesnt like. Crappy movie. 1 stars
1/24/03 Carla Tisdale The funniest and most disturbing movie I've seen in a long time. 5 stars
1/21/03 Angolmois It's a bit too manipulative for my taste, but there's no denying Moore's talent. 4 stars
1/11/03 Trish Superb, but potentially misleading to foreign audiences 5 stars
1/10/03 John Bale Disturbing yet amusing doco that will promote endless discussion 5 stars
1/07/03 tina excellent 5 stars
1/05/03 slick It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry. A Masterpiece. 5 stars
1/05/03 .Choadushouse. This movie was great and truly made me realize things I never did before 5 stars
1/02/03 Kyle Wow, America IS paranoid... 5 stars
12/30/02 Matthew Smith outstanding documentary, Hilarious and Scary 5 stars
12/30/02 Chowie-Pie I luved this movie so much, Michael Moore is da bomb 5 stars
12/29/02 Tam One of the best films I've ever seen! Funny, intelligent and moving. 5 stars
12/29/02 Elizaveta US is rotting from the inside out and no one's even aware. Absolutely necessary to see. 5 stars
12/29/02 Karen There is hope for us yet while there are pople who can make this sort of movie. 5 stars
12/27/02 Andrea Armstrong everyone in America should be required to see this film. 5 stars
12/24/02 FrayLo Everyone should see this movie. It doesn't tell you how to think...it just MAKES you think 5 stars
12/23/02 aiken drum Makes you realize how many social problems has in an entertaining way. 5 stars
12/18/02 s.n not bad 4 stars
12/17/02 Brett Fuck Heston, fuck Bush, hello Ghandi! 5 stars
12/16/02 Tam One of the best films of all time. Funny, dark and thought-provoking by turn. 5 stars
12/15/02 viking Heston belongs in Jurassic Park !!!!! 5 stars
12/09/02 ownerofdajoint mooretakesyoubrazenlywithbrassballsstickinghisfingersinsacredcowseyesandtearingpremisesup 5 stars
12/09/02 Oliver The film is very, very, very god and real. 5 stars
12/08/02 Uter Hilarious and unsettling. Brilliantly raises issues missing from our national dialouge. 5 stars
12/06/02 katie bignose fantastic 4 stars
12/04/02 Danny Charcoal It was good 5 stars
11/29/02 nick2k great documentary. i wanna kill that senile palsy motherfucker heston! 5 stars
11/25/02 King Richard Charelton Heston is an asshole 5 stars
11/24/02 Gibbo profoundly moving - Moore is a genious 5 stars
11/23/02 Joe Zappa I once asked my dad if u can b seriously moved AND laugh hard. Yes. Very refreshing, too! 5 stars
11/22/02 Nice Guy Eddie Still got a rousing round of applause after many weeks release (& on a Thurs night!)... 5 stars
11/14/02 Johnny Mayonaise This movie is amazing! It makes you think about what kind of country America really is 5 stars
11/14/02 Buddha If you honestly think America is the best country in the world, this will educate you. 5 stars
11/13/02 pedro definitely see it and draw conclusions for yourself...SEE IT! 5 stars
11/10/02 golfing for tmj slightly good but the people that will watch it already know the movie's claim 3 stars
11/09/02 Social ills like microwave popcorn-- some kernels scorched, few left unpopped 5 stars
11/08/02 Josh Foreman It was a very interesting film. If Michael Moore weren't such a self-righteous, statistic 3 stars
11/07/02 Suzz don't miss it 5 stars
11/06/02 Bill Clinton Every night, when I go to bed, I'm gonna be thinkin about this movie 5 stars
11/04/02 Maggie McCarey Made me feel like a saved Baptist at a revival 5 stars
11/03/02 Mr. Thomas That 6 yr old girl was shot because some IDIOT adult left a gun where a kid could find it! 4 stars
11/02/02 Johannes de Silenceo It made me sick. It made me think. It made me sad. Definitely go see it. 5 stars
11/02/02 rue the whirl this really puts America in perspective. A true eye-opener. 5 stars
11/02/02 Uncle Salty Fantastic. Honestly, not only should you go see it, but it should be showed in schools. 5 stars
11/01/02 Jason Scotti Conservatives miss the point, skeptics dig up dirt on Moore, but some actually get it. 5 stars
10/23/02 Monster W. Kung The best movie I've seen in quite some time. Opinionated, but very intelligent. 5 stars
10/21/02 John Callahan It is moving, intelligent, and gut-bustingly funny. 5 stars
10/21/02 Aaron Hopkins No, really. Go see it. 5 stars
10/20/02 Tsubo Great movie and documentary. it Makes you actually think and it's fookin funny 5 stars
10/20/02 Lei Z Someone putting free speech to good use 5 stars
10/18/02 Jeff You owe it to yourself to see this movie. It'll make you a better American. 5 stars
10/17/02 Dave This is a great movie but it is not a documentary. It is best called a video essay. 5 stars
10/15/02 Heather Brilliant movie - one of this year's best 5 stars
10/15/02 Reed Roberts This movie is so brilliant that it threatens the very existence of the Universe! 1 stars
10/15/02 Matt Hodge Moore is making a documentary into an opinion 1 stars
10/14/02 snowconehead This is a political poll, not a movie rating, and I'm against both arguments 3 stars
10/13/02 Titus Winters Could have been more coherent, but everyone should see it. 4 stars
10/13/02 W. Barton Burns Brilliant! Painfully honest in its depiction of gun ownership. SEE IT! 5 stars
10/13/02 Mr. Bo Jangles Liberal propaganda. Lets all change the way we live so that Michael Moore isn't upset. 1 stars
10/13/02 raymond gibson beatiful. where is the problem really? NO FEAR 5 stars
10/13/02 not michael moore Pseudo-liberal garbage, spewed in East Village oh-so-righteous style. Makes you like theNRA 1 stars
10/12/02 Massive Johnson Moore is an idiot, he doesn't even seem to know what his point is. 1 stars
10/11/02 Wyatt Earp Moore just blows hot air. Did nothing for me. 2 stars
10/11/02 Art Mayes one of the most significant films in our nation's history. 5 stars
10/11/02 David Creighton Canada looks good here (we have our own problems) 5 stars
10/11/02 Bill Joyce Stirring, fantastic, will change the way you see the world forever 5 stars
10/11/02 silentShab Truly amazing. I didn't want it to end! 5 stars
10/10/02 Michael Moore for President A stunning piece of work, the best documentary you will see this year 5 stars
10/08/02 Ramblin Wreck Moore is an ass. Charlton Heston.........May God Grant You Peace. 5 stars
10/08/02 Mister Char even better than Roger and Me, clearly Moore hasn't lost his touch 5 stars
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  11-Oct-2002 (R)
  DVD: 19-Aug-2003



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