The Big One

on April 10, 1998 by Susan Green
   With the graininess of video pumped up to 35mm, Michael Moore's latest venture in ambush journalism employs the stalking methods of "Roger and Me" to tackle corporate weasels around the country. The 1989 documentary relentlessly pursued the CEO of General Motors. Although "The Big One" has more fish to fry, it's a similarly satirical indictment of late 20th century capitalism.
   Moore received BBC funding to take along a camera crew on the 1996 promotional tour for his first book, "Downsize This: Random Threats From an Unarmed American." Virtually every stop coincides with an economically devastating local turn of events. He hits Illinois just as the 60-year-old Payday candy plant lays off its Centralia labor force; when Johnson Controls announces a move south, Moore presents the Milwaukee firm with a check for 80 cents, the anticipated hourly wage of Mexican workers. Moore asks Nike CEO Phil Knight why teenaged girls in Indonesia receive less than 40 cents an hour to manufacture the company's products and is told Americans don't want to make shoes.
   In addition to signing books, giving radio interviews and speaking in college auditoriums, Moore lampoons the unblinking demeanor of former presidential candidate Steve Forbes. "The human eye needs to blink every 15 or 20 seconds," a doctor explains, adding that anyone who fails to do this "is not human." A patchwork-quilt approach infuses "The Big One" with energy, but a choppy chronology is not always easy to follow and might even merit criticism, considering that Moore came under fire for allegedly misleading juxtapositions of facts in "Roger and Me." Also, the new film is somewhat more self-serving and less well-crafted than Moore's deliriously inventive "TV Nation," his counterculture version of the "60 Minutes" format that summered on NBC in 1994 and on the Fox network a year later.    Starring Michael Moore, Garrison Keillor, Studs Terkel, Rick Neilson and Phil Knight. Directed and written by Michael Moore. Produced by Kathleen Gylnn. A Miramax release. Documentary. Rated PG-13 for some strong language. Running time: 94 min.
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