A larger-than-life cardboard cutout of "W" sits in the lobby of the Maui Mall Megaplex these days. Looking both presidential and confused, star Josh Brolin does bear an uncanny resemblance to the current occupant of the White House - at least for a few more months, during which time, hopefully, nothing else will get broken.
He is the subject of Oliver Stone's new "W." From advance word, it's hard to tell if the new film is biography, comedy or tragedy. Subtitled "A Life Misunderstood," it's set to open before the next election.
That's only one of the nutso assortment of entertainment products being generated this political season. As "Saturday Night Live" negotiates to get the real Sarah Palin on the show, its viewers would probably rather write in Tina Fey's name for vice president. The entertainment industry is working hard to make electoral politics feel like a fun house hall of mirrors this year - if only it were more fun.
Last weekend was a good case in point as mall movie theaters got political salvos from both the right and the left.
Ever since Bill Maher mistook me for a punching bag as I attempted to interview him on stage at the Maui Film Festival a few years ago, I haven't quite been the same. As much as I might agree or be awed by his rapier wit, Bill's a hard guy to actually like. So I passed on the chance to join the choir for his rant on fundamentalism in "Religulous."
But judging by "An American Carol," the guys at the other end of the political spectrum aren't any easier to like - and are a whole lot less funny. Writer-director David Zucker's alleged comedy wants to correct the record regarding the "left coast." He and his pals want viewers to know that not everyone in Hollywood buys Michael Moore's politics. His film features Kevin Farley who bears a strong resemblance to the slobby "Sicko" filmmaker, at least when it comes to Moore's notions of grooming.
Based on "A Christmas Carol," it tells of the America-hating Scrooge, er, Michael Malone, whose efforts to abolish the Fourth of July are interrupted by visits from "spirits" of democracy, ranging from JFK to George Washington and George Patton. The ghosts are played by folks like Kelsey Grammer, Dennis Hopper and Jon Voight.
Echoing the most vile recent rhetoric in the real presidential campaign, the filmmakers' differences with the actual Michael Moore can basically be reduced to one simple fact: He's a terrorist. Case closed.
What they don't get - along with how to be remotely funny - is that even people who like Michael Moore's movies don't like Michael Moore. His presence on a political platform is a kiss of death for whichever Democratic candidate he's next to.
But it turns out that the shambling, left-wing, Oscar-winning propagandist is better at laughing at himself than they are at laughing at him. "An American Carol's" efforts are so inept, bellicose and offensive, I couldn't last more than 15 minutes before needing a breath of air that wasn't toxic.
Heading off down the hall, I caught the tail end of the week's box office winner, "Beverly Hills Chihuahua." This is Disney Studios' latest recycling of the pampered-pooch-on-the-wrong-side-of-town script that has been working for generations, ever since "Lady and the Tramp."
This time it's with real dogs - well, if you believe real dogs can talk - and the story moves from Beverly Hills to Mexico. South of the border, after being befriended by a scruffy German Shepherd, our little heroine eventually gets in touch with her Chihuahua roots in some Mayan ruins deep in the jungle.
With Jamie Lee Curtis in the cast and a script that's fun for the kids and bearable for their parents, it's all bark, no bite which, in this case, is a good thing. Well, cute, at least.
Folks looking for an actual movie to entertain them have a choice between a couple of good ones.
"Appaloosa," directed, written and starring Ed Harris is an old-fashioned Western, more in the vein of "Lonesome Dove" than "Unforgiven" or "Brokeback Mountain." Nicely teaming Harris with Viggo Mortensen, it points out that the main difference between a gunslinger and a lawman in the Old West was which one had the badge - but it does it with a light touch that's more humorous than trigger happy.
And "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" gives "Juno's" Michael Cera a fitting romantic platform for his nerdy, earnest, irresistible self. Well teamed with Kat Demmings and a terrific supporting cast, the wry comedy may be targeted to 20-somethings, but it's laughs are accessible to people older than that, too.
It's reassuring to see that beneath their hip demeanor and slacker attitudes, the kids in the film are as sweet as they are bright and funny.
More reassuring than most of what we're hearing from the political front, anyway.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.