October 31, 2002

JACKASS: THE DOCUMENTARY — Matt Labash gives Michael Moore’s latest effort an unequivocal thumbs-down:

It’s a harrowing tale, one which Moore first takes to Dick Clark in an ambush interview (Clark quickly peels away in a minivan, unfortunately missing Moore), and later to NRA president Charlton Heston. Heston, of course, has announced he has symptoms consistent with Alzheimer’s, which is apparent, because when Moore buys a star map and shows up at Heston’s gate unannounced, he lets Moore in for an interview. Starting off slowly, peppering him with chatter about the second amendment, Moore ends up closing in for the kill, asking Heston if he’d apologize for bringing NRA conventions to both Flint and Littleton after their respective shootings. Heston wisely calls it quits, but as he flees his own living room, Moore follows him, hectoring him with a picture of the girl Tamarla Owens’s son shot. “This is her. Please take a look at her, please, this is the girl,” Moore says, before propping the photo against Heston’s house.

It is perhaps the single-most shameful moment ever in a Moore project, which is saying something, since Moore authored an entire chapter on how O.J. Simpson couldn’t have killed his wife (because rich people usually hire lowerlings to do their dirty work). Not only did he ambush a doddering old man who had nothing to do with the shooting, but he related the Owens story in a fashion that was dishonest in nearly every way.

For what Moore didn’t tell us about Tamarla Owens and her family could fill several newspaper and magazine articles, and did. The uncle’s house where Owens left her children was, additionally, a crack house, where guns were often traded for drugs. The gun that the boy stole from a shoebox on a mattress in his uncle’s bedroom had been reported stolen once before. And Owens was hardly a model parent, merely getting squeezed by unfortunate circumstances. According to Time magazine, Owens herself was a drug addict (she denied it). Additionally, reported Newhouse News Service, according to a state Family Independence Agency petition, she admitted holding down her oldest boy so he could be beaten with a belt by two male friends, and she also admitted beating the boy with a belt while sitting on him, after first duct-taping his hands, feet and mouth.

In short, Owens and her clan were to responsible gun ownership what Moore is to responsible journalism. To beat Heston up for her problems is itself an act of violence. It is perhaps understandable why Moore attempted to drop himself from the narrative, and put a less-fortunate type like Owens front-and-center. As he recently told one reporter, he has a sign on his editing-room door that says “when in doubt, cut me out.” The reason he says, is “First of all, I can’t stand the look of myself. Secondly, a little bit of me goes a long way. . . . because it’s just a bit much. That’s how it feels when I watch it.” After watching “Bowling For Columbine,” it’s easy to see how he feels.

Phil Donahue likes it, though.