Its starting point is the 1999 Columbine high school massacre, where two students shot to death 12 of their peers and a teacher in Littleton, Colorado--which Moore rightfully feels is emblematic of the whole gun problem. But "Bowling for Columbine" doesn't stay with that potent theme. It's also an unfunny diatribe against other obvious targets, including American imperialism, racism and welfare--threads woven awkwardly into Moore's main assault against guns and those who use and promote them.
It's scattershot filmmaking, seemingly directed by a five-year-old with attention deficit disorder. It's also often simplistic. The real tragedy of Columbine wasn't the guns but the alienation and ostracism felt by the killers--feelings that drove them to commit their heinous act in the first place. Moore knows this--and rock star Marilyn Manson states that in the movie--but the director prefers heat to light, and would rather ambush the likes of National Rifle Association president Charlton Heston than delve too deeply into the motivations of the murderers. It's also much easier to link American military adventures abroad to the violent American gun culture, even though the example Moore uses, the bombing of Kosovo, was a NATO exercise. The most embarrassing, idiotic scenes in the movie, in which Moore seriously contends that Canadians don't lock their doors or have to deal with violent crime, are equally faulty. Certainly, there's a trenchant, relevant movie to be made about the unique American relationship to firearms but, despite a few comic highlights, such as Moore's visit to a bank that gives out guns when you open an account, "Bowling For Columbine" is emphatically not that film. Directed and written by Michael Moore. Produced by Michael Moore, Kathleen Glynn, Michael Donovan, Charles Bishop and Jim Czarnecki. A United Artists release. Documentary. Not yet rated. Running time: 118 min