Based on a true story, Grassroots relies heavily on your 'root for the underdog' sensibilities even though it's obvious the underdog is clueless, but this ‘Mr Stoner Goes To Washington’ (well, Seattle) is not without its charms.
hen he loses his job, Seattle-based political journalist Phil Campbell (Biggs) is convinced by muso friend Grant (David Moore) to manage his campaign for city council where he plans to extend the monorail and put an end to the city's traffic congestion. Grant's impassioned speeches aimed at those in office – namely Cedric The Entertainer's Richard McIver – rub people up the wrong way; it's up to Phil to smooth out the rough edges and make him a viable candidate before girlfriend Emily (Ambrose) gets fed up with Phil's dossing about and calls time on their already shaky relationship.
rassroots's BIG scenes don't have the power they should: when Grant has to rally the troops the day after 9/11, his speech falls short of the rousing nature director Stephen Gyllenhaal is after. The problem is part candidate and part actor: Grant is too fuddled a character and all the passion in the world doesn't make one a coherent speaker, while Joel David Moore, for all his fun manic energy, doesn't have the requisite screen presence to make the big words hit home. Basically, he can't sell it.
he romance subplot becomes a thorny issue - does Biggs want to keep Ambrose or does he or bed Cobie Smulders's monorail employee? – and both fail to ignite because of the indecisiveness. Similarly, it can't make up its mind if it’s a comedy or a drama. Grassroots's biggest problem, though, is that it doesn’t know what it wants to say about politics bar the David Vs. Goliath/Outsider Vs. System angle.
t isn't without its allure, however. Biggs – taking a step closer to losing his American Pie image - and Ambrose – who has a feistiness criminally underused in Hollywood - boast some nice chemistry, Cedric The Entertainer makes for a believable fatcat and watching Joel David Moore bounce off the walls is fun. The election night too has its moments of real drama.
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