A year before professional rabble-rouser Michael Moore released Slacker Uprising—available free on slackeruprising.com, and for $10 on a DVD with extra features—it premièred at the Toronto Film Festival under the title Captain Mike Across America. To use the parlance of our times, the name change is a classic example of putting lipstick on a pig. It isn't just that Slacker Uprising is Moore's worst film in a walk, it's that it's really all about "Captain Mike," messianic man of the people, standing at the forefront of a youth-driven revolution. Shot in the few months leading up to the 2004 presidential election, when Moore embarked on a 62-city tour to drum up enthusiasm in arenas and on college campuses, the film is now being used to rally the same troops for November 4. But whatever its intent, this interminable 96-minute highlight reel plays like Moore's homage to himself. Based simply on what he has to say in support of John Kerry—nothing—some young voters must have been surprised to learn that Moore's name wasn't on the ballot.
Much like 1997's The Big One—not coincidentally, Moore's second-worst film—Slacker Uprising isn't a muckraking exposé along the lines of Roger & Me, Bowling For Columbine, or Sicko, or even an irreverent essay film like Fahrenheit 9/11. Instead, it's a freewheeling tour documentary about Moore as the heart of a cult of personality, flanked on all sides by fervent supporters, pockets of frothing detractors, and local news reporters soaking in the "controversy." With each new city, the same pattern repeats ad nauseam; the only thing that changes is that different celebrities are tasked with serenading him, including Eddie Vedder, R.E.M., Viggo Mortensen, Tom Morello, and Steve Earle.
There's no doubting the immediate usefulness of the "Slacker Uprising" tour: For a few months, Moore was able to rally people who are traditionally apathetic about politics, solicit new voters (with free ramen noodles and underwear), and inspire fans to canvass neighborhoods and drive up voter registration. But there's an expiration date on this tour, just like there was on Fahrenheit 9/11, and that was four years ago. In spite of the questionable victories that Moore claims for himself—for instance, that the vast majority of the cities he visited swung for Kerry (which might also have something to do with the fact that they're, you know, cities), that the youth vote was the only bloc Kerry won—the landscape has changed since 2004. For one, the kids have themselves a new leader: His name is Barack Obama.