Welcome to Mooseport

What is a president supposed to do after leaving office? Eisenhower and Ford decided to play golf in Palm Springs. Nixon wrote books. Carter became unofficial peace ambassador. Reagan is being treated for Alzheimer’s disease. George H. W. Bush and Clinton are relatively quiet, as their relatives are in office. Welcome to Mooseport, directed by Donald Petrie, portrays the post-presidential fate of President Monroe “the Eagle” Cole (played by Gene Hackman), whose profile is distinctly similar to that of the current president. Mooseport (not Kennebunkport), Maine, a hick town with a pet moose and a senior citizen streaker, has been the summer home of the president, who is now divorced as he leaves office. (The actual filming is at Port Perry, near Toronto.) Nearly penniless, Cole is counting on a lucrative speaking tour and a book contract. Charlotte, his shrewish former wife (played by Christine Baranski), who has taken over their Baltimore estate, soon demands the summer home as an item of personal property according to the terms of the settlement. Meanwhile, Mooseport’s mayor suddenly dies, so members of the town council come up with the bright idea of asking the former president to run for mayor. With his Mooseport residence transformed from a private home into the mayor’s official residence, Cole believes that he can fend off his wife’s final demand. However, the plan has one flaw: Not everyone is in on the backroom deal to have the president as mayor; sincere “Handy” Harrison (played by Ray Romano) has put his hat into the ring just before the filing deadline, not knowing that Cole has also agreed to run. The possible humiliation of losing to a mere plumber prompts some members of the president’s opinionated staff to contemplate various ways of handling the situation, some not very proper. Nevertheless, Cole decides to confront the plumber, whom he first meets while fixing the toilet in his house on his return to Mooseport. Although Cole tries to persuade Handy to withdraw from the race, his employees at the hardware store encourage him not to back down, especially after the president asks his fiancée, Sally Mannis (placed by Maura Tierney) out on a date, though the president is unaware of any amorous connection between the two local residents. The plot thus involves a love triangle and a mayoralty election, with many comedic lines and situations, including the arrival of the former Mrs. Cole on the scene to campaign for Harry as well as a couple of silly debates. One vote decides the outcome, and several marriages (including a gay pairing) occur at the end of the film. We do not gain any enlightenment about the real American political process, but we may have some nostalgia for the concept of Mooseport politics when the inevitable mudslinging in the 2004 presidential election serves the intended purpose of turning off voters. MH

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