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Friday, November 29, 2013

'Running Mates' DVD: The Fonz Channels Adam West's Mayor West

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Monarch Home Entertainment's DVD release of the wide-appeal comedy "Running Mates" continues that distributor's great track record of making wonderfully quirky (and often Canadian) titles available. This film about a local boy made good returning to his hometown to run for mayor prompting his former classmate whose life did not turn out as well to joining the race is an wackier (and funnier) version of the Gene Hackman/Ray Romano film "Welcome to Mooseport."

The catalyst for this competition comes in the form of long-time mayor of Shoulder Bob Weatherbee, played by Henry "The Fonz" Winkler of "Happy Days" fame, deciding to call it quits after decades of hilariously clueless leadership ala fellow veteran actor Adam West's portrayal of Mayor West on the Fox animated comedy "Family Guy."

This role and several others that Winkler has played over the past few years nicely show that (like West) this Yale drama school grad and former personification of cool is unafraid to play the buffon for laughs.

Archie Fenton is the man trying to disprove Thomas Wolfe's well-known theory that you can't go home again by returning to largely working-class Shoulder in an undisclosed state that shares many characteristics of the Midwest. His wife Ronnie who is a minor celebrity based on being the face of her family's soy sauce company, is the driving force behind both the return to Shoulder and campaign for mayor.


Archie's reunion with former classmate Reg Rossi soon after returning to Shoulder temporarily reverts Archie to behavior that is often referred to as "youthful indiscretions" and prompts Reg, who has not matured beyond his "teenage dirtbag" years, to enter the race.

Graham Greene, who is perhaps best known for his roles in the film "Dances With Wolves" and the television series "Northern Exposure," is the third candidate. His Dilton Harper is a soft-spoken high school teacher who is demoted from teaching science to being a coach after teaching evolution.

Much of the film focuses on the hilarious highly different campaign styles of Archie and Reg. Archie essentially copies Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign down to his street-art sytle posters and a campaign slogan of "Sure We Could" that is an obvious variation of  Obama's "Yes We Can" slogan.

Reg's slogan is "I Never Left," and his focus on the "townies" is very typical of the "natives" versus elitist "immigrants" attitude that pervades many smaller communities across the United States. This theme leads to an exceptionally funny campaign ad by Reg.

Other great humor relates to negative campaign ads and similar tactics by both Reg and Archie to the inevitable point that things go too far. This prompts the equally inevitable happy ending when everything is once again right with the world.

The final analysis of this film about small-town politics and the eccentrics that control it is that it always amusing and often hilarious. Further, seeing Winkler play a clueless bumbler is always a good thing.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Mates" is encouraged to email me; you can also find me on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.