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Oliver Stone’s ‘W’: This Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

Oliver Stone’s W is like a greatest hits album: You’re primed to respond to it because you’ve heard it all before, and mostly loved it. But, like a greatest hits album, there are no surprises. Which is the biggest surprise about Stone’s latest political diatribe.

Making fun of George Jr. — his vocabulary, his pedestrian understanding of the world, his trouble digesting snack foods — has been a small but necessary consolation for having to endure his presidency. Stone keeps the joke going. But he doesn’t add much to it.

Yes, W is a compact history of the almost unbelievable events of the last eight years. But there has been no shortage of recent reminders: Frontline’s Bush’s War, a documentary about the administrations dishonest case for invading Iraq; HBO’s Recount, about the election fiasco of 2000; the Iraq war documentary No End in Sight (all of which are more subversive for their damning appraisal of what really happened than this film).

The biggest opportunity for Stone to advance the discussion would have been in his depiction of George W before he became Commander-in-Chief — to re-imagine his past like he did for Nixon or Oswald and others in JFK. Instead, Stone shows us a hard-drinking frat boy fuck-up. Then, during one scene set in 1990, Bush turns to his father and says, “Gee, Poppy, this Saddam has really lit a fire under your saddle!” before cautioning him “not to think too much.”

Oh, right, Bush is dumb and he demolished Iraq because he has Daddy issues. Case closed?

Casting someone whom people might actually want to get a beer with does imbue Dubya with the appeal we’ve heard so much about: Josh Brolin has Bush’s mannerisms down pat and yet still manages to charm. But mostly, W isn’t a lot more provocative than a one-liner, and it doesn’t seem to have absorbed the real lesson of the past two terms: Never misunderestimate an inexperienced boob running for office.

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