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Bowling for Columbine
Review written by: Alex Sandell

In Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore, a lifetime member of the NRA and award winning marksman, goes on a quest to find out why Americans are shooting the shit out of each other.  Why aren't people in other countries, where the per-capita gun ownership rate is equal to ours, putting bullet holes in their fellow citizens at the same rate Americans are?  They watch the same movies as we do.  They listen to the same music.  What is it that's different?  Obviously no one has a definitive answer to the questions that Moore's asking, but plenty of people express their varying viewpoints throughout the film, and the audience is given enough food for thought that they'll be left digesting it for an entire lifetime.

Moore did have his fair share of help in creating this incredible feat in filmmaking.  Co-creator of South Park, Matt Stone, one of many celebrities interviewed throughout the dark-comedy/documentary, offers up a cartoon about the paranoid history of the white man in America.  Although the depressing truth behind the animated short gives you the chills, it has you screaming with laughter, throughout.  Could the white man's racism and fear be behind the gun violence in this country?

The interview with crazy-eyed John Nichols, brother of accused Oklahoma City bomber, Terry Nichols, brings out nervous chuckles from the audience, but the laughter abruptly stops when the man holds a loaded gun to his head.  The intensity of this individual is frightening, and he's proof beyond a reasonable doubt that it doesn't take much coaxing to turn a gun enthusiast into a gun nut.  Could the gun nut's rabid passion for his lethal toys be behind the gun violence in this country?

Dick Clark, the perpetual teenager perpetually paying minimum wage to teenage employees working at his novelty restaurants, proves his first name wasn't a fluke, when he dodges Moore's questions and reveals more about himself through his callous attitude than he could have ever done by granting an extensive interview.  Could Clark's callousness and lack of respect for the employees he keeps below the poverty line be behind the gun violence in this country? 

Marilyn Manson, a favorite target of politicians and the media after the Columbine shootings, gives what is probably the most insightful interview in the film.  When he says he wouldn't tell the teenagers at Columbine anything, but would instead listen, it's startling.  Why didn't anyone do this?  Why were the politicians and the media too busy pointing fingers to actually hear anything the actual people involved had to say?  Could the self-serving politicians looking for nothing but votes and the corporate news networks looking for nothing but ratings be behind the gun violence in this country?

And then there's the already infamous interview with Charlton Heston.  Heston, current head of the NRA, famous for his overacting in various pictures such as, Planet of the Apes, seems to make a habit of holding NRA meetings immediately following tragedies such as Columbine, in close proximity to where the tragedies occurred.  Holding a rifle into the air, Heston defiantly declares to a screaming audience of insensitive gun-toting whackos impervious to the protesting parents outside of the building, "from my cold, dead hands."  When Moore asks Heston why he continues to taunt communities that just underwent gun-related tragedies by holding his ridiculous rallies, he doesn't provide any answers.  He's squeamish and comes off as nothing more than a racist old man and celebrity puppet to the real loonies running the show at the National Rifle Association.  Could the NRA's manipulation of the Second Amendment, and its relentless fight to preserve their incorrect interpretation of it, be behind the gun violence in this country?

Although no clear answer to any of these questions is given, you are able to deduce that it is a combination of all of these things, and Moore subtly and convincingly shows us how each of them tie together.  But don't think for a minute that he makes his case exclusively through interviewing opinionated famous people.  Only after you see the film will you realize that the evidence doesn't stop with the interviews and the interviews don't stop with the stars. 

Unnerving statistics fly off the screen in montages that are hard to look at, but irresponsible to turn away from.  Politicians are implicated.  The press is implicated.  As a matter of fact, if anyone is held to task for the continued gun violence in the United States of America, it is the news media and the politicians, both determined to scare this country into a paranoid submission.  Anything for the ratings.  Anything for the votes.  Anything to keep handgun sales up across the nation.

And hopefully anything and everything will be done to get people into the theater to see Bowling for Columbine.  The film is never boring, stale or lacking something to say.  It will cause you to laugh and to cry and to possibly look at things in a way you never have before. 

I hope Bowling for Columbine keeps expanding into theaters across the country until everyone in America, whether they are Republican or Democrat, black or white, gun advocate or advocate of gun control, gets a chance to see it.  This one can't be missed.

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Text (Copyright) 2002 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].

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