Making the Grades
"The Eagle Has Landed."
So trumpets the headline in the small town's paper, notifying its citizens not of a space-age achievement, but the arrival of former US President Monroe "Eagle" Cole (Gene Hackman) to his new vacation home in the fictitious community of Mooseport, Maine.
The incredibly popular politician is eager to begin an easier life of high-priced speaking engagements and book deals. Yet no sooner are his golf clubs unpacked when he is visited by Morris Gutman (Wayne Robson), a desperate member of the town council. It seems Mooseport is in immediate need of a new mayor, but nobody is interested in the job. Gutman suggests having a former president in town hall would be the perfect way to launch Mooseport into the limelight.
For "Eagle" (his preferred nickname), being a big fish in a small pond is an irresistible temptation to his always-hungry ego. Even better, rubbing shoulders with Sally (Maura Tierney), a local vet and prominent community member, sets his heart pattering faster. Going against the better advice of his staff, including his admiring personal aide Grace (Marcia Gay Harden), the old political pro agrees to his new assignment with superlative confidence. It appears he has Mooseport on a string.
That is until he meets the guy who is fixing his toilet. Handy Harrison (Ray Romano) is the proprietor of the neighborhood hardware store, and unbeknownst to Eagle, he's put his name in for the mayoral race at the last moment. Giving the newspaper extra fodder, Handy has been dating Sally for six years--which has left her frustrated at his inability to pop the question.
With a lovers' triangle wedged into the campaign, the David and Goliath battle becomes a national sensation, giving Mooseport more publicity than ever, while threatening to leave the former president with a far greater handicap both on and off the golf course.
Without delving into silliness, the writers of Mooseport manage to create a simple setup that plays well for the entire film. Hackman's gruff demeanor is a perfect foil to Romano's everyman character he's so well known for on TV's Everyone Loves Raymond. Whenever the two meet on screen, be it at a debate or on the golf course when they tee off in a contest for Sally, their opposite personas generate some great laughs.
Considering this is Romano's first big screen appearance (his only other foray into movies was playing the voice of the mammoth Manfred in Ice Age), many families will be drawn to this film hoping to see the Raymond they've come to know and love. For the most part, they won't be disappointed. Passion between him and his female costar is only discussed in dialogue that confirms the couple's extended relationship includes sex, although another conversation and sight gag focuses a little longer than necessary on Sally's underwear.
Instead it's likely the elderly nude man that will have parents covering young eyes. For some reason, the creators felt it necessary to include this irrelevant character who shows up for a couple of extended scenes (he's the first thing you see in the movie) where he runs through downtown buck naked. Seen mainly from the rear, I can't help wondering if he was tossed in to ensure the film's PG-13 rating (as opposed to PG, which is seen by studios as less marketable).
Welcome to Mooseport provides good examples of the dangers of pride along with the need to be confident in who and what you are. Unfortunately the gratuitous attention-getting streaker will leave some families wanting to vacation elsewhere.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Welcome to Mooseport.
There is a fine line between having self-confidence and being overly prideful. How can you tell the difference? What did both Handy and Eagle learn that made them better people by the end of this movie?