The re-election of George W. Bush ensured that the cottage industry of leftist documentaries and books devoted to disparaging the Bush administration would continue unabated, but it also robbed the booming subgenre of much of its urgency and purpose. After all, much of the excitement of watching Bush-bashing docs came from the imminent election. Films like Fahrenheit 9/11 gained a strong undercurrent of hope from the idea that they might influence voters. "The situation might be grim," they implied, "but it can be remedied at the polls."
But no such hope exists in the tardy new documentary Weapons Of Mass Deception: This indignant attack on the way the Iraqi war was marketed and covered feels about as timely and relevant as yesterday's newspaper. Embedding ill-conceived stabs at whimsylike a framing device riffing "comically" on Apocalypse Nowinto dull, gray slabs of reporting, the film lays out a wide-ranging critique of the way the U.S. military and its PR denizens packaged the war as entertainment to an lapdog press that was only too eager to reduce it to an orgy of soundbites and sensationalistic images. Parts of Danny Schechter's valid yet overly familiar argument might come across as revelatory or damning to anyone who hasn't seen Control Room, Outfoxed, Uncovered, Fahrenheit, or any of the other myriad anti-Bush docs.
Schechter puts himself front and center in the narrative, but his nebbishy presence does little but invite unflattering comparisons to Michael Moore. Where Moore's genius lies in his ability to convey his argument in viscerally powerful emotional and cinematic terms, Schechter's film just rehashes old arguments. He wants desperately to be an explosive muckraker, but this muck has been raked way too many times before.