Sicko: Aiming For Tearjerker Status

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Michael Moore's new film Sicko premiered last night at The Flicks, to good effect among Ada County Democrats, who cheered his every laugh line.

But aside from the stirring footage, the film wasn't much more than a repeated whiffle-ball bat to the head: Socialized! (whack) Medicine! (whack) Now! (whack)

The only problem is, we don't get much more than that.

Yes, there were tears in the audience, and there were lots of laughs at all the right points. Moore has at least learned a few things that are now a reliable part of his shtick:

1. Playing dumb. Moore does a great job of appearing surprised that Canadians, Cubans, French and Brits all have universal coverage. The "ah ha" moments are plainly staged, but get good laughs. Moore is an excellent foil, with his large face going from befuddled, to dumbfounded, and finally to incredulous. It's the everyman act he started in "Roger and Me" and has used to great effect since then.

2. Jerking tears. Moore found his American health care nightmare stories by asking for them on his Web site. And he got some doozies, including the guy who had to choose which of his two fingers that were cut off to re-attach. Doing them both, he was told, would be too expensive. He chose his ring finger. Oy. But his story was nothing compared to the 9/11 heroes that Moore dragged around with him for the latter half of the movie, in a quest to find better health care in Cuba. (Surprise: they found it.)

3. Making opponents look dumb. Starting a movie with a George Bush gaffe is a dandy way to set the tone. Making Hillary Clinton look like she was bought into silence on health care by lobbying bucks is another neat trick. The enemies of universal coverage are "the powers that be," (yes, he actually uses that phrase) and they are the reason we have the ridiculous system we now have.

The film serves as great relief to anyone who's had to fret over prescription drug costs, or who has had to fight with their insurer over their bill, or who has wondered what it would be like to have true universal coverage. Those people will find comfort.

But that's all the film wants to do. I imagine that a movie that tried to explain how to get there wouldn't be as marketable.

If Moore's film succeeds in pushing health care issues into the media spotlight, then it's worth every penny. Those people who just don't wanna take it any more should see this movie. You still won't want to take it any more, but misery loves company.

But if you're looking for answers, you're looking in the wrong place.

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