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Reviewed by Jeff Giles
t seems quaint and silly to many of us now, but once upon a time, people watched the news to hear analysis of current events from people they knew they could trust, rather than people they knew they’d usually agree with. There are a number of reasons for it – the rise of 24-hour cable news, the demise of the Fairness Doctrine during the Reagan era, a general increase in cross-party animosity – but things are very different now; rather than taking pains to at least simulate objectivity, anchors are now encouraged to create ratings first, and ask questions later. Or, in some cases, not at all – investigative reporting is expensive, after all, and not the kind of thing that shareholders tend to care about much.
The logical conclusion of all this – aside from the nightly foam-in-the-mouth fulminating of choir-preaching blowhards like Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann – is the development of the sort of jokey, jump-cut Internet “journalism” that permeates “The Real McCain.” Its makers claim they want this DVD – which collects a series of anti-McCain YouTube shorts, adds zero extras, and asks you to pony up $10 for the bundle – to act as an information tool, something that might persuade fence-sitters or McCain supporters to make a switch. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, it’d be hard to argue the nobility of this sort of activism, particularly given how heavily “The Real McCain” relies on the candidate’s own words. But even if it had been perfectly made, the chances of this DVD changing anyone’s mind about John McCain would have been awfully slim. We just don’t live in that kind of political climate anymore.
Still, even if it never had much future as a non-partisan informational tool, “The Real McCain” could have been – should have been – compelling viewing. Instead, it’s a sloppy, amateurish hack job that even the most fervent Obama supporter should be embarrassed to own.
This isn’t to say that anything in “The Real McCain” is untrue, per se. In this day and age, it’s all but impossible for a candidate to hit the campaign trail and not, over the course of 18 months, provide his opponents with enough gaffes, blunders and contradictory statements to fill a stack of DVDs. And in fact, if all the filmmakers had done was compile those clips, “The Real McCain” would have come much closer to reaching its stated goal. Instead, they’ve bogged down almost every segment with painfully unfunny attempts at humor (case in point: a fake McCain interview with George Stephanopoulos) or corny dialogue and terrible acting (such as on the heavy-handed “Why Do Women Give McCain a Zero?”).
There are plenty of reasons not to vote for John McCain, and “The Real McCain” touches on many of them, but that’s all it does – and worse, its overall structure and tone will likely only strengthen its target audience’s resolve. A foolishly missed opportunity.