Two Mikes Don't Make a Wright
1992 Directed by Steven Wright, Michael Moore, Mike Leigh. Starring Steven Wright, Rowan Atkinson, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Moore, Jim Broadbent.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 22, 1993
Any TV watcher with access to PBS and A&E may have already seen these three short films, but that's still no excuse to miss them in their big screen formats where they tend to gain a bit more solidity in addition to the support of audience laughter. The Appointments of Dennis Jennings is comedian Steven Wright's 1989 Oscar-winning film about a harried young fellow who, despite the dubious psychiatric assistance of Rowan Atkinson (The Tall Guy, Mr. Bean) and the limp ministrations of his girlfriend (Laurie Metcalf of Roseanne fame), seems unable to reconcile his existence in the world. Although it's really no more than an extended take on Wright's taciturn stand-up routine, the film works by sheer virtue of its weirdness. Wright's world is a surreal place where nothing ever seems as it should, and everything is puzzling and strange. Next up, Michael Moore's Pets or Meat returns the documentarian to beautiful Flint, Michigan two years after the completion of his brilliant Roger & Me to find another 10,000 jobs lost and GM still making way too much money. Shot on video for PBS, Moore's offering, while not in any way a “bad” film, is by far the weakest link here. Moore revisits such Flint luminaries as “the Bunny Lady” and Deputy Constable Fred (who's expanded his community services from simple evictions to selling repossessed autos) and discovers, to no one's surprise, that Flint is as bad off as ever. Mike Leigh's (Life is Sweet) delightfully inspired A Sense of History rounds out the trilogy. While basically an extended one-shot gag, writer-actor Jim Broadbent's portrayal of the 23rd Earl of Leete is gleefully sublime. Strolling about the grounds of his estate, the Earl fills us in on a bit of ghoulish family history, perhaps best left in the dark. Simultaneously, Broadbent is disarmingly charming and thoroughly vile as he wanders over hill and dale, re-enacting various bits of his life and pontificating on the nature of being one of God's chosen elite. God save the Queen, indeed. As a trilogy, Two Mikes... is uneven in spots, but that's a minor quibble. Short films like these are hard to track down in the best of times. These days, an anthology film of this sort is practically a godsend.