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W. 

If W. were the raucous satire its preview trailer suggested, it might be cathartic to watch. But director Oliver Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser (Wall Street) have taken Bush’s life — the stuff of low comedy — and painted it as tragedy. Weiser’s conception of Bush (played by Josh Brolin) relies heavily on caricature — Bush yellin’ and whoopin’ Texas-style, driving drunk, dancing atop a roadhouse bar. In reality, making fun of Bush’s cowboy style went out of fashion the minute he invaded Iraq. He was no longer a joke but a horror. Reproducing, as the movie does, his malapropisms (“Is our children learning?”) also doesn’t address the abiding mystery of whether Bush is more intelligent than his public persona suggests. If he really were the dumb lout portrayed in W., could he have graduated from Harvard business school or won the heart of smart, bookish Laura (Elizabeth Banks)? The movie recites a litany of sins: “enhanced interrogation techniques,” media blackouts on flag-draped coffins, Bush visiting horribly mangled soldiers and giving them patriotic T-shirts. To be effective, though, W. needed to tie the personal and political into a strong, coherent statement. HH 1/2

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