Copyright 1998 Gannett Company, Inc.
Vigilante Michael Moore Stalks Another 'Big One'April 10, 1998
Mike Clark

As a camera-wielding invader of privacy, The Big One's Michael Moore works in the semi-queasy tradition of less socially conscious predecessors: This Is Your Life's Ralph Edwards and Candid Camera's Allen Funt.

Still, you probably have to love a puckish pest who shows up at a corporation's headquarters to offer its chairman a check for 80 cents -- the first hour's wage for the first worker who'll be hired when the U.S. company blows town for Mexico.

The good Michael triumphs over the suspect Michael in Moore's big-screen follow-up to Roger & Me, even though the result inevitably lacks the element of surprise that sparked that 1989 art-house hit.

As movies go, The Big One is a small one, but it's more consistently funny than Moore's mid-90s broadcast salvo TV Nation. Among the things it teaches us (and Moore has footage to back up his assertion) is that former presidential candidate Steve Forbes is the only human who can go for an entire minute without blinking.

This kind of foray suggests a loose filmmaking structure, though the movie's ostensible purpose is to chronicle Moore's book-signing tour for his best seller Downsize This! As we see, he can't even do this without getting banned from the Borders chain by encouraging its employees to picket for better wages. But along the way, he tries out his not-bad Bob Dylan imitation on Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen, listens to on-the-road sex advice from Garrison Keillor (just say no) and does endlessly amusing variations on his security-guard ritual.

This is the one where Moore & crew show up in a corporate lobby with an introductory prop like the 80-cent check -- which, by the way, is of trombone-case length. On a beat of three, we cut to a shot of someone on the in-house phones. Bang, presto, and the corporate flacks are in the lobby -- trading friendly banter, looking stone-faced or calling the cops.

The movie's climax finds Moore aiming at and even hitting a much bigger target: Nike chairman Phil Knight, who shows up to get grilled over child labor and human rights abuses. One gets the impression, not for the first or last time, that some folks will do anything to be in the movies.

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