Michael Moore’s latest film “Bowling for Columbine” takes aim, shoots and hits at the heart of one of America’s largest dilemma’s: gun control. While the film fails as a documentary in its inability to maintain an objective viewpoint, it succeeds in presenting a position that is highly educated, at times comical and always informative. Moore’s craftsmanship in piecing together various media to gain total perspective and his questioning of the root cause of such tragedies as Columbine is both commendable and glorious.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of MGM
Where did the Tigers hat go, Mr. Moore?

The film begins by presenting that access to guns has reached an apex in its absurdity. Moore enters a bank that not only will let you sign up for a checking account, but also, as a convenience, sell you one of several hundred guns it keeps on hand. After little time has elapsed, Moore emerges from this strange duality bearing a rather large rifle. In need of ammo and a haircut, he finds a place that caters to just this type of complementary craving and gets a trim and several boxes of bullets.

Shifting from home movies, to comedian Chris Rock, to the Oklahoma City massacre, Moore begins his quest for answers and everyone, it seems, has their own opinion, with each believing his or hers is the right one. Who is “right?” The constitution grants Americans “the right to bear arms” but Moore argues the very definition of the word “arms.” The town of Virgin is all but pure due to the fact that a law was passed there mandating all to own a gun. K-Mart and Wal-Mart both maintain free access to munitions. Guns, so it would seem, permeate America and this idea segues into the Columbine shootings.

For the first time on the big screen, one sees footage of one of the 747’s smashing into a tower of the World Trade Center. From this horrific image that has become engrained in every American’s mind, Moore shifts back to a compelling montage of 911 calls and security camera footage from the Columbine shootings. The juxtaposition of these two scenes creates a powerful mix of emotion and an unreachable superlative of sadness.

After this scene, the film gains momentum and shifts toward finding a cause. Moore questions race, but marks fear as the cause for why gun-related fatalities in America are the highest in the world. At a time when everyone is pointing fingers either at the media, video games, upbringing or Marilyn Manson, Moore suggests the root of the problem is more engrained in our society and in facets that most would not like to ponder.

Moore embarks on a crusade with two Columbine victims: One is in a wheelchair for life and both must live with bullets left inside them. The three travel to the K-Mart headquarters in hope of persuading the chain to stop selling bullets in their stores. They are met with opposition and given the run-around, but their perseverance is unwavering. They return the next day having bought out a local K-Mart of all its ammunition. Accompanied by many members of the media, K-Mart issues a very surprising statement. This event instills Moore with the confidence he needs and uses to confront to president of the NRA, Charlton Heston.

The Columbine shooters were bowling the morning of the day that many would never forget. “Bowling for Columbine” attempts to search for the reason why two teenagers would move from throwing a ball down a lane to opening fire on their classmates, but then evolves into a brilliant social commentary that critiques part of the fabric of America.

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