Bowling for Columbine
starring Michael Moore
4 stars

Why do so many Americans kill each other with guns?

Michael Moore goes hunting for the answer in his new film Bowling for Columbine. No precision shooting here, no sniper-like accuracy. Imagine a duck shoot in heavy bush. A rustle to the left. An answer? Maybe it's because America has so many guns? CHA-KOOM! Did we hit it? No, Canada has 7 million guns in 10 million households and barely any gun murders. Maybe it's America's uniquely violent history? Ba-BOOM! Nope -- lots of other countries have violent histories too. Economic realities? BLAM! I think we winged it there-- hard to say.

Again the question: why America, why America, why America. And the fact is, Moore never finds the answer, never bags his game. He wants a bad guy, but the closest thing he can find is Charlton Heston.

But even if he doesn't bring home a goose, Moore stirs up a hell of a lot of brush. Moore goes back into history, digs into the race problem, looks at violent video games and movies, ranges all over the defective culture, taking shots where he can.

For example, Moore is a card-carrying member of the NRA, a group for which he reserves his most punishing gutshots. Twice he shows us defiant NRA rallies held days after terrible gun tragedies, savagely cross-cutting it with the father of a slain boy speaking at a protest. On the other hand, even if he holds the NRA in contempt, he doesn't point the blame at rank-and-file gun nuts. We see them, and sure, they're a little goofy, but they're not the problem. 

But the NRA and militias are just two stops in a trip across American gun culture that blasts away at all kinds of economic and political realities of American life. Consider the case of a 6-year-old boy who brought a gun to school and shot a 6-year-old girl. Who to blame? The kid? Get serious. How about the parents --where the hell were the parents? Well, as a matter of fact, the single mom was spending four hours a day on a bus to work at a mall selling fudge to rich people to pay off her welfare. Maybe that's a problem.

Moore has lots to show us in this film, plenty of pictures worth seeing. A Lockheed-Martin executive standing in front of an ICBM rocket engine, eerie footage of the Columbine massacre, crumbling cities.

There's a frustration to Bowling for Columbine, a raw anger that this problem exists but defies solution. But if Moore seems frustrated and angry with America, he's bedazzled with amazement with Canada. He gets almost fanciful in his portrayal of Canada as a sane, rational version of America, where affable Torontonians leave their front doors unlocked. Of all the themes and ideas that come out of the film, "Move to Canada" is one of the strongest.

Moore, of course, isn't moving to Canada, and he has to keep looking for answers for America. If anything, he keeps coming back to fear, the idea that America is a country dominated by fear, force-fed fear. Fear of blacks, fear of killer bees, fear of terrorists, always things to be afraid of. The crime statistics go down, but the media crime coverage goes up. But what is America so scared of? And if that's not a question we can answer, can we at least get K-Mart to stop selling Tec-9 bullets? See the movie and find out.