Eminently dislikeable political comedy starring Jason Biggs
There’s a lot of things going for Grassroots. It’s a political comedy timed for release when US election fervour is at its peak; it focuses on the same type of community-led campaigning that won Barack Obama his first term; it has the feelgood status of a based-on-a-true-story underdog yarn. Yet none of these elements can save a movie populated by dislikeable characters and written/directed with no aplomb whatsoever by Stephen ‘father of Jake and Maggie’ Gyllenhaal.
Seattle, 2001. Phil (American Pie’s Jason Biggs) is a recently-unemployed journalist, asked by his hot-headed buddy Grant (Dodgeball’s Joel David Moore) to manage a political campaign against supposedly complacent incumbent Richard McIver (Cedric the Entertainer).
It’s possible the real-life Grant was as obnoxious an over-actor as Moore, but that doesn’t make him any more palatable on screen. His ‘impassioned’ speeches about revitalising the city’s monorail sound like self-important delusions rather than inspiring monologues, and as such, there’s little sympathy to be generated for the charmless Phil (Biggs struggling to move on in a post-Pie world) for sticking by him. Only Cedric the Entertainer’s McIver comes across as a likeable human being in the end, and as he’s the opponent of our heroes for much of the film, this only makes us dislike them more.
Selected release from Fri 9 Nov. With thanks to Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh.