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With: Michael Moore, Garrison Keillor, Rick Nielsen, Phil Knight
Written by: Michael Moore
Directed by: Michael Moore
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language
Running Time: 91
Date: 09/06/1997

The Big One (1998)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Rotten to the Corporate

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Michael Moore is like a turtle, round and slow, but solid and smart. He still wears his baseball cap, his hair is a little long and messy, and he sports jeans and a windbreaker. He pokes his way into a confrontation or a into a room full of people, smiles out of the side of his mouth, and casually rips into everything. He is so much a character that we often forget we are watching a documentary. You get the feeling that even the camera crew forgot they were shooting a film. We're all just watching Michael Moore.

Moore came on the scene with his amazing and acclaimed documentary Roger & Me in 1989. He was criticized because his film wasn't really journalism. There was never an interview with Roger Smith, the CEO of General Motors, the man that Moore was supposedly making the movie about. You didn't really learn anything -- it was all just knee-jerk reactions. But it worked. It worked because it tapped into the anger that Americans feel about how hard it is to get ahead. How hard it is to keep your head above water. How CEO's are untouchable and unreachable, and they really don't give a rip about the working man, no matter how much they say they do. How everything is corrupt and a few greedy people are controlling the lives and destinies of the great majority.

Moore went on to establish a foundation dedicated to helping independent filmmakers, social action groups, homeless shelters, and food kitchens. He started the show "TV Nation" (one of the greatest shows ever), which was quickly canceled (no doubt because television CEO's were beginning to sweat). He wrote a book called "Downsize This", and went on tour to promote it. That's when he decided to make another movie.

In The Big One, Moore embarks on a journey to 47 U.S. cities in 50 days. He does book signings, speaks at schools and bookstores, and, occasionally breaks away from his busy schedule to visit the CEO's of big companies who have laid off workers when the companies have shown record profits; companies like Pillsbury, Procter and Gamble, Leaf Candy (Pay Day candy bars), and Nike. He also talks to the common folks, and finds people working two jobs just to get by, people who have lost their jobs, and convicts who made telephone reservations for TWA while in prison! He also presents evidence that millionaire presidential candidate Steve Forbes is not human (he never blinks).

There are three major differences between The Big One and Roger & Me. First, The Big One is shot on video, so it looks kind of crummy. Secondly, Moore is now a celebrity and has some money to throw around, whereas in the first movie, he was struggling to keep film in the camera. He uses this money to buy airline tickets for Nike CEO Phil Knight and himself to fly to Indonesia so they can tour his factory there. That's the third difference. Moore actually gets to meet with his first CEO in The Big One. He challenges Knight face to face to build a Nike factory in Flint, Michigan (Moore's hometown), and videotapes 500 people who say they will work in it. Knight turns him down, but does agree to match Moore's donation of $10,000 to Flint schools.

On top of it all, Moore gets to jam with Rick from Cheap Trick.

This is quite a movie. I'm afraid I've given most of it away, but the audacity, bravery, intelligence, humor and heartbreak of The Big One will still surprise you. It's impossible not to agree with Moore on his political views, which is quite a trick. It's proof that he's a great presence, capable of whipping a crowd into a frenzy with cool ease. In one scene, he suggests that "the United States of America" is a boring name, and we ought to be called The Big One, and we actually agree with him, with a little chuckle.

DVD Details: Miramax's DVD comes with optional French and Spanish subtitles, Dolby Digital Surround Sound and a theatrical trailer. It's presented in 1.33-to-1 fullscreen, which doesn't really affect the film, as it was shot on video.

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