Michael Moore’s Slacker Uprising has now been available for two days as a free download — U.S. and Canadian residents who sign up at the web site are able to download it from one of several different services, including Blip.tv, Amazon Video on Demand, iTunes and Hypernia.
Of course, what those who do download the film are getting is a film festival flameout. Slacker Uprising was originally presented as Captain Mike Across America, a 2007 Toronto International Film Festival selection that failed to generate any critical heat at the fest. And although the film has allegedly been since edited again, the issues that reviewers complained about in 2007 have not been resolved.
Moore’s films have always been heavy on hyperbole, but in the past they’ve at least managed to be entertaining. Unfortunately for Slacker Uprising, that’s not the case. Despite a premise that’s incredibly natural to good structure — the road trip movie is such a common narrative that it might have actually been referenced in Aristotle’s Poetics — Slacker lacks any cohesion, moving from vignette to vignette casually, relying on the force of Moore’s personality to maintain interest. You could argue that it’s not really a classic documentary but more like a concert film, except that there aren’t quite enough musical interludes to pull off that argument.
And the film’s biases would be visible from the Space Shuttle: Supporters of Moore are portrayed as bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked saviors of democracy, while his antagonists are stupid and inarticulate. And Moore always gets the last word. Plus, there’s no effort to put the issues about which Moore harps — the controversies of the 2000 election, Swift Boat ads, etc. — in a context relevant to today, making the entire exercise feel petty and out-of-date.
Axel Woolfolk of Brave New Films (the production company behind Slacker) said via phone that they’re waiting until the end of the week to release official statistics regarding the amount of downloading that has taken place. “We’re putting numbers together right now from all the different providers,” he said. “But I can tell you right now that it’s huge.” Those numbers will be the clearest indication of whether or not Slacker has managed to reach an audience, but is that the factor that will determine the film’s success?
Beyond the news stories covering its unconventional and purposefully unprofitable release schedule (though how much of the $2 million budget was covered by Moore’s speaker fees is unclear), so far the film has failed to generate much buzz beyond the smattering of other bloggers who have watched it. Moore might have been better off making Fahrenheit 9/11 available for free — it’s a better film, and a lot more capable of engaging discussion than Slacker. Which, at this stage in the election cycle, should be the point.